The Saginaw Valley State University football team won a thrilling 55-52 shootout with rival Grand Valley State University this afternoon (Nov. 10) in front of a packed Wickes Stadium on Senior Day. The win helped the Cardinals claim a share of the GLIAC North Championship for the second consecutive year.
The early tension between the two rival schools was broken on the second play of the contest when Tim Hogue (Inkster, Mich.) broke free on an 87-yard scamper to the GVSU 1-yard line. Hogue finished the afternoon with 15 carries for 175 yards on the ground. Senior Ronnie Lark (Flint, Mich. / Powers Catholic HS) struck paydirt on the next play as the Cardinals took the early 7-0 edge.
On Grand Valley's ensuing possession, Grant Caserta (Holland, Mich. / West Ottawa HS) jumped the GVSU route and took the interception down the GVSU 15-yard line. The SVSU offense called upon Meijer "Player of the Game" Jeff Janis (Tawas City, Mich. / Tawas Area HS) on the next play with a reverse to the right side and into the endzone as SVSU went up 14-0. Janis would finish the game with ten receptions, 165 yards receiving and three total touchdowns.
After another Laker turnover, this time by Jon Bryant (Detroit, Mich. / Oak Park HS), Cardinal quarterback Jonathon Jennings (Columbus, Ohio / Westerville South HS) connected with Hogue on a 54-yard pass, which he took all the way for the score as SVSU went up 21-0 midway through the first quarter. Jennings would end the afternoon completing 26-of-37 passes for 360 yards and three touchdown through the air. He would also add a TD reception and run later in the game.
The Cardinals carried the momentum into the second quarter as Jennings hooked up with Janis on a 41-yard touchdown catch and run as he broke several tackles as he crossed the pylon to put SVSU up 28-0.
Grand Valley put points on the board for the first time with nine minutes to go in the half to cut the SVSU lead to 28-7.
With five minutes remaining in the first half, the Cardinals went to their bag of tricks as senior running back Ronnie Lark threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to quarterback Jon Jennings. The touchdown pass from Lark put SVSU ahead 35-7 on Senior Day.
The Lakers would open the scoring in the second half with a 42-yard touchdown to Charles Johnson. Sophomore Scott Stanford (Novi, Mich.) and the Cardinals would respond with a 22-yard field goal to make the score 38-14.
Stanford would add his second field goal of the afternoon, this time from 35-yards out after GVSU used a big kickoff return to setup a 2-yard touchdown.
Jennings would power his way into the endzone on a four-yard run behind the Saginaw Valley offensive line to extend the Cardinal lead to 48-29 after GVSU added another touchdown in the third quarter.
The Lakers would then go on to score on three straight possessions to take the 52-48 lead over the Cardinals with 6:07 left in the game.
With just over a minute remaining in the game, Saginaw Valley reclaimed possession of the ball at their own five-yard line. Jennings and the Cardinal offense would go to work from there, completing a 16-yard pass to Hogue and a 37-yard strike to Mark Thrash (Wyoming, Mich./Wyoming Park HS) down the SVSU sideline. He would hit Thrash again on the drive for a first down on fourth and ten. Thrash ended the evening with 10 receptions for 92 yards.
The Cardinals would find themselves first and ten from the Grand Valley 32 yard line with just nine seconds left on the scoreboard. With the game on the line, Jennings drifted slightly to his left and threw a perfect pass to Janis in the corner of the endzone for a touchdown. Janis out leaped two Laker defenders and came down with the game-winning touchdown for Saginaw Valley.
The win for the Cardinals was their first over Grand Valley since the 2004 season.
Leading the way for the Cardinals on defense was Brian Johnson (Muskegon, Mich. / Catholic Central HS) who finished with 11 tackles while DeAngelo Parris (Clinton Twp., Mich./Warren De La Salle HS) and Caserta both chipped in with seven tackles on the afternoon.
The Cardinals have likely played their last game of the season unless they are selected for play in the Division II Football Championships. Selection show for football is Sunday (Nov. 11) at 5:00 PM Eastern Time.