A valiant comeback effort by the Port Huron football team came up 3 yards short Friday night.
The Big Reds were stopped inside the 5-yard line as time expired in their 27-20 Macomb Area Conference White Division loss against Utica. The loss drops the Big Reds to 2-6 on the season.
“We just came up a little short on time,” Port Huron coach Ryan Mullins said. “It would have been nice if we would have been able to conserve one of our timeouts that we had to burn earlier. But I felt like we had to use the one we used earlier just to give Devon (Lynch) a break. We had a chance at the end, and I was proud of the way the kids fought back.
“To be down for most of the game and then come back and have a chance late, shows a lot about the kids.”
The Big Reds put together a drive in the final minute that went 60 of the 63 yards they needed. On the final play of the game, quarterback DeAngielo Sanderson avoided the rush and heaved a ball toward Lynch inside the five. Lynch caught the ball surrounded by defenders, and nearly drug them to the goal line, but was brought down at the 3, causing a big-time celebration on the Utica sidelines.
“It was a pretty gutsy performance, because (Lynch is) banged up, and he’s playing both ways,” Mullins said. “It was a pretty solid effort there on (Lynch’s second receiving) touchdown, and to turn around and play defense — he’s been like that all year. So I’m proud of him for the way he played. He gave us a chance at the end.”
Lynch finished with 115 yards receiving and two touchdowns, which came on consecutive offensive plays for the Big Reds. His first was a 28-yarder down the seam from Sanderson Jr. with 4:09 to play, and the second was a 45-yarder with 2:14 to go on a nearly identical play. Although on the second, Lynch broke several tackles in the secondary before cutting toward the sideline and dashing in for a touchdown that tied the game at 20.
Sanderson Jr. finished the night with 176 yards on 15-of-24 passing. He also had 135 yards on the ground.
Utica running back Kumehnnu Gwilly rushed for 190 yards and three touchdowns in 2 1/2 quarters before getting hurt on his third score of the game. The Chieftains didn’t do much on offense without him until their final drive, when a pair of long passes set them up deep in Port Huron territory, and Patrick O’Connor hit Slater Lutz for the go-ahead 15-yard score.
“He’s tough,” Mullins said of Gwilly, a Central Michigan commit. “You can see why he’s one of the top running backs in the state. He’s a physical player with great speed. He’s just the combination of both. But really, I thought our defense did a good job and came up with some big stops and some turnovers in the second half.”
Gwilly made his presence felt early, scoring on a 25-yard run on Utica’s first drive. It was actually his second touchdown of the game, but his 38-yard score four plays earlier was called back because of a holding penalty.
The Big Reds responded well, however, driving 65 yards on 13 plays, and taking up nearly 6 minutes before Sanderson Jr. scored on a 9-yard keeper, tying the game at 7.
After a roughing the punter penalty kept Utica’s second drive alive, Gwilly added a 35-yard touchdown run. The point after try gave Utica a 14-7 lead, which it took into the half.
Gwilly added another score in the third quarter, capping off a 56-yard drive in which he gained all the yards with a 4-yard score. The extra point missed, however, and Utica led 20-7. In more bad news for the Chieftains, Gwilly was injured on the play and didn’t return.