ADRIAN, Mich. – The final three quarters of the Adrian-Albion football rivalry was a wild one. After a scoreless first quarter the teams combined for 73 points in the final 45 minutes as the Bulldogs picked up a mammoth 47-26 victory over the Britons at Docking Stadium. Adrian increased its record to 5-1 overall and 2-1 in the MIAA, while knocking Albion down to 3-3 overall and 2-1 in the conference.
The story in this one was the physical play of the Adrian College offensive line. The Bulldogs rushed for 434 yards marking the second-highest total in school history and freshman Emmanuel Stewart single-handedly outgained Albion on the ground with a school-record 281 rushing yards. He broke the previous record set by Jason Desotell in 2001 against Wisconsin-Lutheran (255 yards). Ironically, the Bulldogs will host WLC next Saturday (Oct. 25) at 1 p.m. in their final non-conference game of the season. The five starting linemen of Quest Gosnell, Gianpiero Comuzzi, Dylan Thompson, John Rock and Jordan Simon paved the way all day as the Bulldogs carried it 60 times for a 7.2 yard average. In addition, Adrian totaled 627 yards on offense which was just 40 yards of the school record for total offensive yards. The time of possession was heavily tilted in Adrian’s favor at a 37:28 to 22:32 clip. The Bulldogs converted on 8-of-14 third downs and limited the Britons to 2-of-11 on third down. Albion gained 341 yards but had just 84 yards at halftime and 14 in the first quarter.
Adrian wasted little time in the second quarter to open up the scoring. Aaron Tenney carried into the end zone on a one-yard sneak and a failed extra point made it 6-0 with 14:27 left until halftime. Adrian played field position with Albion on the next few drives and took over at the Albion 42-yard line with 8:25 left in the half. On the next play, Tenney connected with Nathan Hartline on a touchdown pass just over the head of an Albion safety. Cameron Cook’s PAT made it 13-0 on the quick strike play. The game seemed to be in cruise control for Adrian until late in the half when Tenney was intercepted by Jose Rodriguez. He returned the interception to the midfield stripe with 2:01 to go until the break. The ground game powered down the field on four straight running plays setting up second-and-goal at the Adrian one-yard line. After a false start, Albion put their first points on the board courtesy of a Dominic Bona to Zach Brigham six-yard touchdown closing the gap to 13-7 with 41 seconds left in the first half. The Bulldogs could have been conservative and run out the clock back on their own 19-yard line, but went for the end zone. Stewart carried for 11 yards and Adrian called a timeout with 28 ticks. Tenney and Hartline put together a 70-yard streak route down the visitor sideline and momentum swung right back to the Black and Gold taking a 19-7 lead into the locker room.
The Britons knocked on the door on their first drive of the second half, but missed a 27-yard field goal after a nine-play, 70-yard drive. Adrian took over and marched down the field 80 yards in 11 plays capped off by a rugged eight-yard touchdown run by Tenney for his second rushing touchdown of the game. Albion answered on their next possession covering 84 yards in seven plays as Colin Parks rushed in from one yard. A blocked PAT by Owen Bachusz made the score 26-13 with 5:28 left in the third quarter.
Stewart had 96 rushing yards at halftime but turned on the moves in the second half. He ripped off a 46-yard run on the second play of the next drive and then Adrian Harris rumbled around right end for 23 yards on a three-play drive which lasted 1:28 and gave Adrian a 33-13 lead. The Britons responded again on their next possession moving 76 yards in nine plays as Brigham hauled in a nine-yard slant with 39 seconds left in a busy third quarter which saw 27 points scored and 377 offensive yards. The highlight of the night came on the first play of the fourth quarter as Stewart twisted and turned for a 76-yard touchdown run weaving his way in-and-out of Albion defenders. It was the longest running play of the season for Adrian and put them ahead 40-20 with 14:45 to play.
“I really can’t believe what happened tonight,” said Stewart. “We had a great week of practice and I just wanted to run hard when my number was called. I knew I could contribute right away this season, but this is beyond my expectations. I just want to help this team win and the offensive line made it easy tonight.”
Stewart had gained just 197 yards in the last three games after a 175-yard performance in week two against Carthage. He now has rushed for 660 yards on 93 carries this season with seven touchdowns. With a 20-point lead early in the fourth quarter, Adrian gambled on fourth-and-two from their own 44-yard line. Harris was stopped one yard short and Albion took the ball over. Bona carried for 25 yards on the first two plays and Parks rushed for 20 yards on the next two plays including an eight-yard touchdown with 10:12 left to cut the deficit to 40-26.
Adrian then put together a demoralizing drive for the Briton comeback chances beginning at their own 27-yard line. The Bulldogs picked up four first downs and burned 8:08 off the clock before Stewart rushed for a 15-yard score on the 13th play of the drive for a 47-26 final outcome. Hartline had his third 100-yard receiving game of the season with three catches for 122 yards. He also had his second multi-TD game and now has eight on the season. The defense was led by Charles Fleck who set a career-high with 17 tackles including 14 solos. It was his second double-digit effort of the year and gives him 45 tackles. Walker Davis registered 10 tackles as the other Bulldog with double figures. The Bulldogs scored touchdowns on four straight possessions including five of their last six to end the contest.
“I’m speechless right now after this game,” said head coach Jim Deere. “To see this type of effort by our team and in particular the offensive line was phenomenal. We knew we could establish the run but 434 yards was truly amazing. Emmanuel (Stewart) was a kid we spent two years recruiting and you can see why. He has a burst and a knack for avoiding contact. That long touchdown run was something I’ve rarely seen in my time at Adrian College. This win was very important after last year’s performance against Albion and now we will look forward to Wisconsin Lutheran next week.”