The Northwestern Wildcats had a chance to end their 15-year drought against the Van Beril High School Dutchmen on Saturday. The game would determine who would win the South Division of the 2018 Michigan High School Athletic Association State Playoffs. As it turned out, the Wildcats got their wish and extended their winning streak to three games. The final score was 65–20.
This was a tale of two teams meeting for the first time in the postseason. The Dutchmen, the No. 3-seed in the South Division, were heavy underdogs against the No. 6-seed Wildcats. The public bet line for this game favored the Dutchmen by 6.5 points. But in the grand scheme of things, the line wasn’t even close to being an accurate representation of the matchup. We’ll try to shed some light on how we got here and what to expect moving forward.
The Dutchmen Are The Underdogs
The only thing certain about Saturday’s game was that it would be a difficult task for the third-seeded Dutchmen to knock off the 2015–16 and 2016–17 state champions. In all likelihood, the Dutchmen were going to find themselves battling for survival. It was an impossible task, and they knew it. Still, they came out fighting.
In the beginning, it was one-way traffic. The Dutchmen were outmatched on the battlefield. They attempted to counter the high-powered Wildcats offense with a strong defense, but the high-octane attack proved too much for them. The first quarter was a defensive struggle, as the teams combined for nine total points. The first touchdown for the Wildcats came on their second possession, and it was essentially a given that they would end the first half with a commanding lead. The rout was on its way, as they coasted to victory in the third quarter and continued to pad their lead in the fourth quarter.
A Win is A Win
The Wildcats got off to a good start in the second half, extending their lead to 40–3 at the start of the fourth quarter. From that point on, there was never any question that they would walk away with the victory. With just 11:09 remaining in the game, some fans and members of the media began to wonder if the Wildcats were finally going to lose a game. But the question was soon answered as the Dutchmen showed rare fight in the final minutes.
With just over six minutes remaining, the Dutchmen managed to score a touchdown to make it a one-point game. Fortunately for them, their comeback was short-lived as Wildcat quarterback Jordan Fuller threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown, putting the game away for good. (The score was 35–20 in favor of the Wildcats at the time.)
The Difference In Execution
There were a number of factors that made the difference in this game. For one thing, the Wildcats were simply faster and more skilled. They also made more plays. Jordan Fuller showcased his talent as he picked apart the Dutchmen’s secondary for 288 yards and three touchdowns. Venric Bynum added another 171 yards and two scores on the ground. For the Dutchmen, it was about as one-sided as you could make it. They never really looked like they belonged on the same field as the Wildcats. They were outmatched in almost every way and had no chance in winning this game.
If you were picking a winner, you would have been hard-pressed to find a line that didn’t favor the Wildcats in this contest. It just so happens that the underdog story was quite the opposite of what we usually see in sports. Normally, when a favorite comes out on top in a big game, we talk about how amazing their coaching must be, how incredible their players are, and how devastating the loss was for the underdogs. In this case, we got to see something completely different as the Wildcats made the improbable journey to end their drought and the Dutchmen went home with their tails between their legs. What a ride it has been so far!
Now that the dust has settled, we can take a look at the future of the Wildcats and the Dutchmen. The season is over for both teams, and what happened this year will likely be seared into both of their memories. It will be interesting to see how they deal with this unique challenge moving forward. Will they become even stronger? Will they look to rebuild their programs? Will they meet again in the postseason? Who knows? It’s a part of sports that we will all have to wait and see.