**ARTICLE BY JOSH LONGSTRETH**
Making their 15th straight playoff appearance, the Freeland Falcons are hoping to make another deep run in 2022. Coming in at 7-2 on the year, the Falcons are battle tested and they hoped to have that on display Friday night. Freeland dropped their regular season finale but seemed to figure some things out which is crucial at this time of year. The North Branch Broncos would be standing in the way this time. The Broncos come in at 8-1 after surviving the gauntlet in the BWAC this year. Freeland would completely wear them down in this one.
North Branch would put together a big drive to start the scoring in this one. Capping off a 12-play drive, Ryan Henne would find his way in from 13-yards away to give the Broncos a 7-0 lead. Freeland would come right back on a solid drive of their own. Sam Talaga would find his way in from 12-yards out. He would add on the 2-point try, and Freeland would lead 8-7 after one quarter of play.
This is about the time the crowd would need to buckle up in this one. North Branch would put themselves back on top in the 2nd after a William Damaska 3-yard TD plunge. This would give the Broncos a 13-8 lead after a blocked PAT. It wouldn’t last long. On the ensuing kickoff, Evan Vasicek would take would all the way back from 70-yards away. A Nick Harrington 2-point try would give the Falcons a 16-13 lead. Back came North Branch. Aiden Swoish would find the endzone on a 15-yard TD scamper. The successful 2-point try would put the Broncos right back on top, 21-16. Hold on one minute, Freeland puts together a monumental drive on a Brayden Petre 5-yard TD run. They would add another 2-points on a pass from Talaga to Daniel Duley, Falcons 24-21. Swoish would bring the momentum right back to the Bronco side, he would take another one in from 10-yards away. Playoff football. Take a breath. North Branch would lead at the half, 27-24.
If you didn’t have much to do this Friday night, catching the game in North Branch wouldn’t have been a bad idea, as there were offensive fireworks galore. Freeland would open up the scoring in the 3rd on a Ty Fournier 77-yard TD run. A 2-point conversion would give the Falcons a 32-27 lead. The Broncos would put together a 9-play drive that would be capped off on a Lucas Schapman 3-yard run. North Branch responds to take the lead, 35-32 after a good 2-point attempt. Back and forth we go. That’s when Freeland would grab a little more momentum. Harrington would find his way in from 6-yards out capping off a long drive. Freeland would take the lead back and give themselves a 40-35 lead heading to the 4th.
Harrington wasn’t done for the night. He would find his way into the end zone on a 9-yard TD run. Freeland would have a 48-35 advantage to this point. North Branch would get some life back to cut into the lead. Damaska would take one in from 5-yards out making it a 48-41 game. The Falcons would take the life right out of the sails putting together a scoring drive that was capped off by a Fournier 1-yard TD to make it a 54-41 game. Talaga would put an end to this one. He would find daylight from 57-yards out capping off a monster night for the Freeland offense. The Falcons go on to take this one in a shootout, 61-41.
Freeland will move on with a chance to play for a District title next week. They’ll have a chance at the Goodrich Martians, winners of their last nine games. A like opponent for the two, Goodrich played Frankenmuth in week 1 losing to the Eagles 27-2. The Freeland offense has been torrid for much of the year averaging 41 points per game. They’ll face a Martian defense who is giving up just 10.3 points per game on the season. This one should be a battle with a title on the line.