Gladwin and Frankenmuth would meet in a collision course on for the Division 5 State Championship at Ford Field on Saturday. Both teams have put together special seasons en route to heading in with a combined record of 26-0. Facing their stiffest tests of the season in some brutal weather conditions last Saturday it was just more of the same for the Flying G’s and Eagles. Domination. That would set up this matchup between two teams who do not get talked about enough. Frankenmuth is a program who is now a perennial power each season. Gladwin is building much of the same thing with their program. This matchup was expected to be epic, but boy, this was one for the ages.

This one would be a battle throughout. Both defenses would really come out and set the tone in this one. On each offenses first possession the defenses would hold up with the Eagles forcing a Gladwin punt, and the Flying G’s forcing a turnover on downs for Frankenmuth. Frankenmuth would move the ball into Gladwin territory late in the 1st quarter but the drive would stall after a big defensive stand. This one would be knotted 0-0 after one quarter of play.

Then the Flying G’s would look to have things rolling a bit. Earl Esiline would find nothing but wide open space as he would break off a 55-yard TD run into the endzone. Gladwin appeared to be the first on the board, but the call would be coming back from an illegal formation penalty that would take the TD away. The Flying G’s would drive deep into Frankenmuth territory but the Eagles defense would make the drive be for not. Frankenmuth would take the ball over on downs. Both teams would force three-and-outs on defense on the ensuing drives. The Eagles would have the ball deep in their own territory with 4:30 left remaining in the half but Gladwin would create some life. A fumble recovery by Dominic Coats would give Gladwin the ball back setting up shop at the Frankenmuth 16-yard line. The Eagle defense would be the next to come up big. Not much would come of the drive and Gladwin would look to get on the board with a FG but would call a fake. Treyton Siegert would put it in a spot where Lucas Mead would nearly make a play but the Eagles wouldn’t allow it. The defenses would ensure no scores on the board continuing to dominant and we would have no score heading into the half.

Gladwin would go three-and-out to start the half and Frankenmuth would start their drive off in Flying G’s territory looking to grab the first score of the game. Gladwin would stiffen up yet again keeping no score on the board. The Flying G’s offense would give it right back after a forced punt from the Eagles. Then Frankenmuth would put some big momentum together. The Eagles offense was helped by a pass from Aidan Hoard to Hunter Bernthal for 56-yardsthat would give Frankenmuth an opportunity at the Gladwin 1-yard line. Three plays later, Frankenmuth would strike on a Griffin Barker 2-yard plunge to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead after a Will Soulliere PAT. Not so fast, with just under 3:00 remaining in the 3rd Gladwin would put together a monster drive of their own. The ground game would get going for the Flying G’s before Nick Wheeler would hook up with Kaden McDonald from 30-yards away. McDonald would make a great catch in the endzone and all of a sudden their was life on offense for both teams. We would be knotted 7-7 heading into the final quarter of play.

Much of the same early in the 4th as both defenses would impose their will again making things difficult for both offenses. Frankenmuth would get the ball back with 9:28 remaining and start to drive. They would put together a 10-play drive that would take their offense in Gladwin territory. The drive would take up over 6:00 of play clock. Faced with a 4th and 5 from the Gladwin 38, the Eagles would decide to try and pin the Flying G’s offense back. Gladwin would start from just their 22-yard line, but they would put together a drive that they will remember for the rest of time. Lucas Mead would get things started on a big 7-yard gain on the first play. Then it was Mead again on the ensuing play. Nick Wheeler would find Mead on a 43-yard pass that would put the Flying G’s offense at the Eagles 28-yard line. Earl Esiline would grab 5-yards on the next play. Esiline again would pick up another nice chunk on the next play and another 5 after that. Facing a 1st and goal at the Eagles 4-yard line, Gladwin would let the clock bleed to 0:05 remaining and take a timeout. They would then trot out young Treyton Siegert to try and hit the game winner. Frankenmuth would make Siegert think a bit before taking a timeout of their own. Then, reality was coming to fruiting for Gladwin. Siegert would put it right through dead center of the uprights to give Gladwin a 10-7 lead with just 0:02 on the clock. Frankenmuth would have would last attempt but it would not be enough on the kick return. The Gladwin Flying G’s grab their first ever State Championship in a game that will go down as a classic, 10-7.

Yards were hard to come by in this one. Both teams would combine for 13 first downs on the day and 424 yards of total offense. Two defenses that were dominant for much of the year showed why on the biggest of stages shutting down each others powerful offenses.

Griffin Barker led the Eagles rushing attack with 43 yards and a TD on the day. Aidan Hoard finishes his Frankenmuth career adding 199 yards of total offense. Hunter Bernthal led the Eagles with 68 yards receiving on 2 catches, including one that would lead to the Eagles only score of the game. Colin Main led Frankenmuth with 9 total tackles in the game. Dalton Debeau added 8 total tackles to finish off his Frankenmuth career. The Frankenmuth defense would have 5 pass breaks-ups on the day.

Earl Esiline led the Gladwin rushing attack with 70-yards in the game. QB Nick Wheeler would go 7 of 15 passing for 123 yards and 1 TD. He added 29 yards on the ground. Logan Kokotovich had just 1 carry on the day as he was hampered by a finger issue.Lucas Mead made some big in the game finishing with 4 catches for 81 yards, he added one rushing attempt for 7 yards to start the final drive for Gladwin. Kaden McDonald finished with 38 yards receiving and the lone TD for his team. Esiline led the defense with 6 tackles. McDonald added 7. Kokotovich gutted it out to add 6 tackles. Gladwin had the only takeaway in this one from a Dominic Coats fumble recovery. Coats added 3 tackles for the Flying G’s.

For Frankenmuth, they’ll finish their season at 13-1 on the year. They ran through their conference schedule to make way for a TVC- Central Conference Championship. They only got more dominant throughout the playoffs en route to a Ford Field trip. Their offense was high powered averaging 38.8 ppg on the season. The defense, one of the best in the state, gave up just 5.2 ppg throughout the season and playoffs. This one will hurt for the Eagles. A team that played their hearts out will come up just short but it’s a program that you would not be surprised if they make another deep run next year. They’ll lose some key pieces but have a ton of key pieces coming back in Zak Andrews, Hunter Bernthal, Jonah Sholten, Riley Hubbard, Will Soulliere, Griffin Barker, Colin Main, Nicklaus Hoesman and Derrick Simmons. Dalton DeBeau, Dayne Reif, Travis Brenner, Brenden Marker, Aidan Hoard and Sam Barger will move on finishing off great high school careers.

Well, many have painted a picture of the Gladwin Flying G’s being a ‘Cinderella Story’ in the 2022 football season. They steamed through a JPC schedule en route to a Conference Championship. They went on the road to pick up a huge win over Pontiac Notre Dame Prep. They finished the regular season with a dominant win over Standish Sterling. They would knock off an under valued Ogemaw Heights team in round one. They would grab a regional title over a very respected Muskegon Oakridge team. They would be the aggressor in a win over perennial power Grand Rapids Catholic Central. They tried to tell you. If anyone watched Gladwin throughout any game this season, it was a team that came out hungry each and every game with one mission in mind. Dominate. Those ‘Cinderella Stories’ are great to tell. People eat them up. But this isn’t one of them and should not be looked at that way. They were the more physical team each week and when you have that with a high skill level athletes that is a hard team to beat. No one could do that. So, faced against a very, very good Frankenmuth Eagles team, one that could match the physicality and athleticism, Gladwin found a way. One last test that would show the grit and toughness of a team that is no ‘Cinderella’ in my estimation. Kaden McDonald, Nick Wheeler, Earl Esiline, Lincoln Mckinnon, Dominic Coats, Lucas Mead, Logan Kokotovich, Anna Seebeck, and Issac Hale will leave behind their legacy, but they have set a precedent as to what Gladwin football will be for years to come. I wouldn’t expect the Flying G’s to go anywhere any time soon, they’re building something. Gladwin finished the season at 14-0 and the Division 5 State Champions.