East Jordan tops Frankfort in OT stunner, earns first playoff win since 1999

Oct. 29—FRANKFORT — East Jordan is about to party this weekend like it's 1999 — which is the last time the Red Devils won a playoff game.

They did it again Friday night, and certainly have something to celebrate.

After a long battle against Frankfort on who would score first, the Red Devils struck first in overtime, winning 6-0.

Those in attendance at Lockhart Field could hear a fly buzz through the cold air of Frankfort after East Jordan won.

"It's almost not real," East Jordan head coach Adam Grybauskas said. "I just told you I'd never been a part of a game like that, and I have coached a lot of football games. That's just crazy. Both defenses were unbelievable, but I'm happy for our kids."

The Panthers put up 32.1 points per game, and the Red Devils held them to zero. The only time the Panthers were in the red zone on Friday night was the first drive of overtime — which was stopped short of a touchdown after quarterback Nick Stevenson tried to get a few more yards.

East Jordan got a chance to win the game starting at the 10-yard line. Quarterback Dawson Carey did as much as he could by running it down on the defensive front. After gaining chunk yards, Carey snuck it in for the game-winning touchdown.

After the game ended, Grybauskas was almost speechless speaking to his team.

"It's still settling in. It's a crazy feeling," Carey said. "Not a lot of people have done this at East Jordan, and we are the second team ever. Any sort of history to win a playoff game is a crazy feeling."

East Jordan only had roughly 50 yards of offense, none of which came close to being inside the 25-yard line. The defensive effort on both sides made it challenging for anyone to score, but Grybauskas credited his defense for stopping Frankfort's high-scoring offense.

"Honestly, the message was we weren't going to stop them, we just needed to contain them," Grybauskas said.

And they did that, by holding the Panthers to less than a total of 60 yards.

Fletcher Anderson and Ashton Hollenbeck didn't have much to work with as the defensive front of the Red Devils slowed them down. The arm of Stevenson was a non-factor as well.

"I was telling our offense that I thought we'd have to score three times to win the game because I thought our defense would give up a couple of big plays, because like you said, they got great players," Grybauskas said.

It wasn't a perfect game by any of the coaches' standards. Both teams were heavily penalized throughout the game, making it hard for them to have any offensive rhythm.

Frankfort had multiple chances on third downs but would be brought five yards back because of a false start penalty.

East Jordan had their fair share of miscues. The Red Devils turned the ball over more times on Friday night than they have all season.

"I don't know exactly why. We turned the ball over more than we have all year," Grybauskas said. "We made the playoffs last year, but I think we had only three that saw action last year in that game. We just have a lot of kids playing their first playoff football."

For a team that has a lot of inexperience in the playoffs, the OT win is something they will remember for the rest of their lives. Dawson knows the magnitude of beating a team like Frankfort and the shockwaves that will be sent through northern Michigan on Saturday morning.

Not one player on the 2022 team was alive the last time the Red Devils won a playoff game.

"These guys said they wanted to leave a legacy," he said. "That was a big part of what they wanted to do. East Jordan doesn't have much of a legacy. We don't have a winning tradition, and it's the first time in 20 years we made playoffs back-to-back. I told them only 25 boys have ever won a playoff game, and you have a chance to be that next group."

For the Panthers, the loss comes as a shock but doesn't take away from the great season they put together. The Panthers finished the season 8-2, which was their best team since 2016.

Panthers' head coach Ed Schindler noted that this loss can be a life lesson for the boys on the team. He added that life throws hurdles, and sometimes it doesn't turn out the way it should, but they shouldn't be quick to forget the type of season they had.

The Red Devils will travel to take on Evart in the next round of the playoffs.