2017-09-07 / Sports

St. Ignace Saints Fight Hard, But Come Up Short to Munising Mustangs

By Jacob A. Ball


The 2017 St. Ignace Saints football team seniors with their parents are (from right) Boyd, Zachery, and Christina Bigger, Candy, Logan, and Lance DeKeyser, Amy, Mason, and Brett Gustafson, Jamin, Trevor, and Stephanie Soblaskey, Mike Valletta, Luke Valletta, and Tonya Winberg, Bob and Silas (in arms), and David VanHeuvelen, and Kelly Jenkins. The 2017 LaSalle High School Cheerleading Team seniors and their parents also participated they are (not pictured) Shirley Musick, Kiara Bishop, and Jim Bishop, Dan, Caiti, and Kelly Dean, Joe, Katlyn, and Cindy Donajkowski, Jessie and Regina Frazier, Don, Linnie, and Sherrie Gustafson, Brett, Alicia, and Abigail LaLonde, Lawrence, Alyson, and Jennifer Sayles, and Mike, Mia, and Lyra Singleton. The 2017 St. Ignace Saints football team seniors with their parents are (from right) Boyd, Zachery, and Christina Bigger, Candy, Logan, and Lance DeKeyser, Amy, Mason, and Brett Gustafson, Jamin, Trevor, and Stephanie Soblaskey, Mike Valletta, Luke Valletta, and Tonya Winberg, Bob and Silas (in arms), and David VanHeuvelen, and Kelly Jenkins. The 2017 LaSalle High School Cheerleading Team seniors and their parents also participated they are (not pictured) Shirley Musick, Kiara Bishop, and Jim Bishop, Dan, Caiti, and Kelly Dean, Joe, Katlyn, and Cindy Donajkowski, Jessie and Regina Frazier, Don, Linnie, and Sherrie Gustafson, Brett, Alicia, and Abigail LaLonde, Lawrence, Alyson, and Jennifer Sayles, and Mike, Mia, and Lyra Singleton. A crowd gathered early Saturday afternoon, September 2, to witness the beginning of another Saints football season at McCann Field in St. Ignace. With the sun shining down on a beautiful day, the Saints took the field against the Munising Mustangs for an early season nonconference matchup. The Saints fans enjoyed a new set of bleachers and press box, purchased with the help of a community fundraiser and installed just in time for the first home game. On the field, the Saints showed considerable potential and spirit throughout the contest, but inconsistency and at some points a lack of composure would result in a 20-8 loss for the home team. The Saints’ work on the interior of the offensive and defensive lines left room for improvement at times, as the Mustangs pushed around St. Ignace. Munising would use this to their advantage, rarely throwing the ball downfield, but instead pounding the middle of the Saints defense early and often. The Saints scored on their second drive of the game with three big runs through Mustang defenders to tie the game. Munising continued to control the tempo of the game, as they slowly and methodically marched their way down the field. Often the Saints recovered possession, but not before the Mustangs were able to devour several minutes off the clock and tire out the defense. St. Ignace was a noticeably different team once they fell behind by a second touchdown. More experience and teamwork could have helped the Saints in the second half, when missed assignments led to frustration. In the coming weeks ahead, it will be determined if this young team can be more or less than is expected of them.


At left: Running back Shawn Livingston jukes to avoid Munising defender Thomas Murdock. At left: Running back Shawn Livingston jukes to avoid Munising defender Thomas Murdock. 
Guard Reid Marshall (middle) with his parents Jennifer and Head Coach Chris Marshall. Guard Reid Marshall (middle) with his parents Jennifer and Head Coach Chris Marshall. There were several bright spots to notice Saturday in St. Ignace. Here are three of them:

1. Toughness

Several players showed great toughness during the game by making big tackles, fighting through contact for extra yards, and keeping quarterback Tucker Shepard upright against a larger, physical opponent. No one on the Saints showed more grit on Saturday than running back and defensive back Mason Gustafson. He played through an ankle injury suffered early in the third quarter to lead his team with 15 tackles, score the Saints’ only touchdown of the game, and record almost 50 yards of offense.


Above: Senior tackle Trevor Soblaskey sets up for a play before delivering a punishing block on Munising’s Anthony Mattson during a nonconference matchup. Junior Greg Paquin (85) sets up on the other side of the line. Above: Senior tackle Trevor Soblaskey sets up for a play before delivering a punishing block on Munising’s Anthony Mattson during a nonconference matchup. Junior Greg Paquin (85) sets up on the other side of the line. His touchdown itself was no simple feat as Gustafson – only 175 pounds on the roster – juked and dipped his way through the middle of the Mustangs defense before spinning around to stretch for the end zone. The 11-yard touchdown run was the Saints only score of the game, and tied things up shortly after Munising put their first points of the game on the board.


Junior quarterback Tucker Shepard delivers a pass toward the sideline against Munising. He would finish the game with over 100 yards passing and would convert a two-point conversion with an athletic run around the left side of the defense in the second quarter. Junior quarterback Tucker Shepard delivers a pass toward the sideline against Munising. He would finish the game with over 100 yards passing and would convert a two-point conversion with an athletic run around the left side of the defense in the second quarter. During the first half, Gustafson appeared to be a part of every play on offense and defense, carrying the ball, catching the pass, or making an open-field tackle to keep the Mustangs from getting too comfortable. Following Gustafson’s injury, he was back out on the field within moments, trying to play through the pain to help during a crucial early-season test of the Saints’ resolve. Although his speed suffered slightly from the injury it could not keep him off the field. Between each play he would walk gingerly, but once the action started Gustafson would move as if nothing at all was the matter.


Junior running back Shawn Livingston successfully spins around Munising’s Jesse Matson after pulling down the pass from Tucker Shepard during the second half of the Saints’ home opener. Junior running back Shawn Livingston successfully spins around Munising’s Jesse Matson after pulling down the pass from Tucker Shepard during the second half of the Saints’ home opener. Running back Shawn Livingston and lineman Reid Marshall also displayed strength and determination throughout. Livingston would set up Gustafson’s touchdown score with back-to-back runs through the Mustang defense to get the ball into scoring position. He would lead the team in rushes, rushing yards, receptions, and tie with Gustafson for the lead in receiving yards. Livingston was also active on defense, where he recorded five tackles, including two in the backfield, and a sack with a punishing weak side blitz on Munising quarterback Alec Blank.

Reid Marshall declared himself one of the leaders of the lineman Saturday afternoon as he refused to quit, sometimes goading his teammates into action. His work on the interior of the line was instrumental in the scoring drive for the Saints, and his work on defense doomed many inside runs. Marshall finished the game with six tackles, with one for a loss of yards. He recorded a quarterback sack as the Mustangs’ interior lineman crumbled under pressure, and Marshall ran Blank down for a loss.

2. Quarterback Play

Junior Tucker Shepard did a good job of keeping himself out of trouble while leading the Saints offense Saturday. While not posting stellar numbers for the position, Shepard would remain upright and composed throughout as he searched for a breakthrough. Rarely was he unable to find an open receiver, even if the pass was dropped, with many quick deliveries allowing his teammates the opportunity to make a play in space.

He also showed good instincts while evading pressure from the defense, which at certain points looked destined to take Shepard down. His footwork and vision saved him on multiple occasions, leaving just enough time to deliver a pass before the defender arrived. Sometimes he would get tossed by a Mustang regardless, but would jump up quickly to campaign the referees for a flag.

Shepard did not shy away from contact. On one play at the goal line, he stepped into a ball carrier as they barreled toward him, allowing other Saints’ defenders the opportunity to come help, even as coaching staff implored him to be careful to avoid flare-up of old injuries.

3. Coaching

Coach Chris Marshall and his coaching staff have plenty of experience with St. Ignace Saints football. Saturday, Coach Marshall spoke one-on-one with his players as they departed the field to offer advice or compel more intensity. On several occasions he gathered the starters to push for better cooperation and focus between series. He encouraged his players to “play for each other” and work as a team.

“We’re only this far away, but we gotta grow up in an awful hurry,” Coach Marshall said to his players, gathered on the field after the final whistle.

A big part of this development will be to identify the leaders for the Saints who can encourage their teammates, Coach Marshall said.

“Finding that guy that is picking everyone up” will be essential to any success we have this season, Coach Marshall said.

The team will learn from Saturday’s performance, he said. He identified run blocking as an area in need of improvement. The Saints and their fans know this is a rebuilding year, and Coach Marshall is ready and willing to lead the charge.

Statistics:

Passing:

Tucker Shepard: 12/20 for 109 yards, and a rushing two-point conversion.

Rushing:

Shawn Livingston: six carries for 48 yards. Mason Gustafson: five carries for 11 yards and a touchdown. Garett Rickley: five carries for 29 yards. Ryan LaVake: one carry for 10 yards.

Receiving:

Shawn Livingston: five receptions for 38 yards. Mason Gustafson: three receptions for 38 yards. Andy Metz: one reception for 13 yards. Caleb Brown: one reception for 10 yards. Ryan LaVake: one reception for nine yards. Logan DeKeyser: one reception for three yards.

Defense:

Mason Gustafson: 15 tackles. Andy Metz: 15 tackles. Garett Rickley: eight tackles. David Van- Heuvelen: seven tackles, one for loss, one sack. Logan DeKeyser: six tackles. Reid Marshall: six tackles, one for loss, one sack. Tucker Shepard: five tackles. Luke Valletta: four tackles. Greg Paquin: four tackles. Ryan LaVake: four tackles. Trevor Soblaskey: four tackles. Casey Brake: three tackles. Cooper Lannoo: two tackles. Nick Allers: two tackles. Artie Boucha: two tackles.

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