Red sky in the morning, Sailor take warning.
Red sky at night, Sailor’s Delight.
Okay, so it was the Grand Rapids Christian Eagles that came soaring into Lowell Red Arrow Stadium Friday night on the wings of a 6-1 record. And the sky was not so much red as, well, black. Oh the rural setting was stunning with the fall colors in the trees surrounding Red Arrow stadium, the golds, oranges, yellows, greens and, of course, reds in the hill sides were spectacular even in the fading light. The chill in the air brought true Friday night weather to the arena. But there should have been a warning issued to the visiting Eagles about the unbeaten Red Arrows of Lowell. I’m sure the Eagles were on red alert and not taking lightly their trip down the little red lane. Nor were they expecting the Lowell fans to roll out the red carpet for them. They were expecting a hard nosed game. They were expecting an on slot by the legendary strong quarterback play of Lowell, this year in the person of Kyler Shurlow. They were expecting a tough game from a Lowell team that had left the Big Reds of Muskegon, ah sorry, red faced. And they were in the right place. But the first half didn’t turn out at all like either team had envisioned nor like this Friday night sojourner had expected.
The beginning of the game wasn’t up to the gold standard and, in fact , I wouldn’t give you a red cent for the early efforts of the teams. Lowell gained some but found themselves backed up in their own end most of the quarter. GR Christian, despite excellent field position, was harried enough by Lowell on to not put together much of a drive. The only break out came when Coach Fellows of GR Christian gambled on a fourth down conversion just barely in Lowell territory and was caught red handed as Lowell’s strong line backing corps. This gave Lowell a chance to put a couple of first downs together and threaten the Eagle aerie . The 42 yard field goal attempt fluttered and missed. The first quarter ended Lowell 0 GR Christian 0. What might have been the red letter moment of the first quarter was when one Lowell fan complained about the poor play by yelling, “Come on, I had to pay five bucks to watch this!” I did, too.
In the second quarter things started to heat up on this chilly night. At 9:43, Lowell’s Benjamin Bigham snatched a pass away from the talons of an Eagles corner back and ended the first touchdown drive of the night with a 36-yard reception. Lowell 7 GR Christian 0. When Eagles followed on the next possession with a 4th down 35 yard fly pattern strike, the usually stoic Lowell crowd groaned and squirmed in their seats. The hyped matchup of two storied programs was a little flat as the first half ended Lowell 7 and GR Christian 7.
However, a surprise visit to Red Arrow Stadium by the Northern Michigan Wildcat Marching Band changed the whole tone of the stadium and the game. Turns out a freshman trumpeter on that band was a senior trumpeter on the Lowell band last year. Obviously, this herald has some pull as he talked the two band directors into having the Wildcat Band visit at halftime on their way to a Saturday gig at the Grand Valley State game. The band of college kids let loose and proceeded to heat things up further and paint the town red. (Somebody make me stop!) They put on a great half time show which featured tunes by Paul Simon, You Can Call Me Al , which goes something like this in print ‘Blaahhhh .. BLAH Bah BLAHH —– Blahhhh BAH BLAH BLAAAAT’ ! and Michael Jackson, Thriller , which showcased two thirds of the band doing the Thriller Dance. Very cool !
Nor was the halftime excitement unnoticed by the football teams. They, fresh from a good half time torching, returned ready to provide the real THRILLER. Just because it was going to take another quarter and a half to get untracked was no reason to grouse. Ah, such are the moments of Friday night lore.
The early third quarter featured more give and take, the GR Christian defense not giving much on the ground by shutting down the Lowell QB option and pitch. The Lowell defense giving nothing on the ground and shutting down the Tyler Sigler QB option. Then when the strong armed Sigler tried to drop back to pass , Lowell hit him with devastating blitzes. Sr. Sigler dodged and ducked until at 10:21 of the third, the Eagles QB took two steps back and floated a pass to the streaking Dwayne Barfield who caught the safety coming up on the red dog. The tie was broken with a 65 yard TD play. Christian 14 Lowell 7. Now the Eagles coaches in the Press Box had reason to do the Thriller Dance and the Red Arrow fans were blue. The rest of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth featured running by Kyler Shurlow and Kanon Dean and passes to Bigham. His outstanding game peaked when at 9:31 of the fourth quarter, Shurlow heaved a long pass to the far side line and Bigham pulled it in at the 11. From there, the Lowell QB option did put the ball in the end zone. The game was tied and the real thrills were just starting. Lowell 14 GR Christian 14
At 5:33 left of regulation time, Barfield again ran past the Lowell defense and Sigler dropped a perfect touch pass over the beaten Lowell D back and was good for a 50 yard go ahead strike. GR Christian 21 Lowell 14. It then looked like the Eagles finally had Lowell in the red for the count. Then on fourth and long, Shurlow’s under-thrown pass deep down field landed in the arms of an Eagle defender who bobbled the ball and handed it to Lowell’s Bigham for a game saving reception . This set up the final regulation time touch down and evened the score at Lowell 21 to GR Christian 21 and set up the overtime thriller .. .
Overtime was a blur of action. The Northern band members were going WILD at the near corner of the south end zone. The coin tossed and Lowell wins. GR Christian goes first. Play number one from the 10 yard line, and Sigler throws the fade to the corner. Touchdown and the extra point is good! Then it’s Lowell’s turn and after a half of some errant passes, Shurlow completes the fade on their first play of overtime to the other corner and the extra point is good. Lowell 28 GR Christian 28.
The teams change ends of the field and Lowell goes first in the second overtime. Now they use the QB option and on third and four, Shurlow blasts into the end zone . The extra point is good. GR Christian decides to run their next attempts and on a crucial fourth and five, Sigler powers off tackle and into the end zone. While the guy next to me and I are discussing if or when the teams must go for the two point conversion, the gambler , coach Fellows of the Eagles, lines up his team for the two point conversion. The Eagles run the same play they just scored on and this time, the Lowell defensive line and backfield stop Sigler at the one and a half yard line. The Thriller is in the books!
Lowell 35 Grand Rapids Christian 34. Cue the band . Cue the Dancers. What a game!
Quarterbacks: Sigler and Shurlow.. great games young men.
Receivers Barfield and Bigham … excellent efforts guys.
Defensive and offensive lines : Eagles and Red Arrows … very solid game, well played.
Backs and Defensive backs: Eagles and Red Arrows .. some scary moments and some missed plays but an excellent training game for the real season two weeks away.
Grand Rapids Christian Eagles: Wow, we know what you are and what you are missing. But while you are missing a huge talent, what you have is most impressive . Good luck and long run.
Lowell Red Arrows: Still undefeated but the Eagles showed that you may have some missing arrows in the quiver. You young men know what is waiting down that ‘yellow brick road’. The mouth may get kind of dry for the first dance but the second is the telling one.
ICE and HEAT. ICE and HEAT. ICE and HEAT. Strap ‘em up tight. The Big Dance is two weeks away.
SPECIAL SHOUT OUT: Northern Michigan Band: Wow, that was WILD! THANKS !
‘Blaahhhh .. BLAH BAH BLAAWHH — Blahhhh BAH BLAH BLAAAAT’
SEE YOU NEXT WEEK The Papa Bill-mobile rolls into Hudsonville.