BRIDGMAN — The Bridgman High School eight-man football team capped off a second successful season on Nov. 7 by defeating Vermontville Maple Valley 41-30 to sweep a two-contest postseason tourney featuring squads from districts too large for the regular MHSAA playoffs (the Bees rolled over Concord 43-21 the previous week).
"Maple Valley is a really good football team," said Bridgman head coach Aaron Locke. "They brought it. They pushed us to our limits … We didn't have anything left at the end of the night. We were thrilled to pull that out. The kids did great."
Bridgman (7-1) fell behind the visiting Lions 8-0 early after a successful onside kickoff led to a 9-yard power rush to the end zone and a subsequent two-point surge, both from Hugheston Heckathorn.
Bridgman quarterback Reid Haskins pulled his team even at the 6:15 mark of the first quarter with an electrifying 39-yard cutback sprint to the end zone. He also provided he two-point plunge.
Maple Valley answered on its next possession as quarterback Blaze Sensiba broke loose down the sideline for a 57-yard run to pay-dirt. Heckathorn powered his way in for two points to open up a 16-8 advantage with 5:20 left in the opening frame.
Haskins pulled the home team even again early in the second quarter, scoring on a 15-yard rush and tacking on two more points with his legs.
The Lions grabbed the lead again with 1:22 remaining in the half as Sensiba fired a 13-yard scoring strike to Reece Proctor-Burhans. Heckathorn then hit Dillon Jorgensen for two more to leave the score 24-16.
But not for long.
Haskins scrambled in to the end zone from a yard out with 9.5 seconds showing on the clock to complete a hurry-up 40-yard drive. The sophomore signal-caller then hooked with Nate Necas for two points to tie things up at 24-all.
Bridgman took its first lead (32-24) with 9:25 to go in the third quarter as Haskins rolled in from 13 yards out and then scampered into the end zone yet again for two more.
After Jayce Warren picked up a first down on fourth-and-8 and Necas ran for 27 yards to set up a first-and-goal from the eight-yard line, Tanner Peters booted a 27-yard field goal to open up a 35-24 margin with 1:31 left in quarter number three.
Maple Valley kept the pressure on with 7:40 to go in the game as Rose dove into the end zone from eight yards out. The two-point attempt came up just short, leaving the Bees on top 35-30.
Necas provided the final margin of victory at the 4:11 mark of the fourth with an eight-yard TD rush.
Haskins picked off a Lions pass in the late-going to seal the deal.
“We were able to bounce back … we just kept playing hard, we just gave it our all, and that’s how we won,” Haskins said.
Bridgman has racked up a 15-2 record since going to eight-man football in 2019, with the program’s only losses inflicted by Martin.
"That's the one team we want to beat every year … they’re a good football team … but we're very happy with what we did this year," Locke said.
He noted that last year’s squad was led by a talented group of seniors, while the 2020 Bees had one 12th-grader on the roster (lineman Jarrett Hess).
“I’m just grateful for everyone that’s gotten me here, I’m grateful for the coaches, I’m grateful for everything right now,” Hess said.
Haskins totaled 113 yards and four touchdowns on 28 carries while also completing 8-of-14 passes for 80 yards. Warren caught seven of those passes for 63 yards.
Heckathorn paced the 4-4 Lions’ 288-yard running attack with 150 yards on 29 totes.