By Robert Tomlinson
THREE RIVERS — There aren’t too many environments that are perfectly made for a team on a losing skid to pick up its first win of the season.
Friday night at Armstrong Field, on Homecoming night, and in front of packed bleachers full of students, parents and community members was just the environment Three Rivers’ football team needed to do just that.
Facing off against a Plainwell squad that came in with a 1-4 record, the previously-winless Wildcats played perhaps their best game of the year so far on both sides of the ball, shutting out the visiting Trojans 39-0 and giving first-year head coach Chris Gilliam his first win as a Wildcat.
“All wins feel good, but this one obviously feels a little bit better, because it’s homecoming and it’s the first win of the season,” Gilliam said. “We’re super-proud of our young men, because they had to face a lot of injuries and a lot of different things that are distractions. I’m really proud of them for staying focused and working hard.”
The Wildcats’ rushing attack was on-point on the evening, rushing for 228 yards on the day, nearly doubling Plainwell’s total yardage output of 118. That run game played a huge part in Three Rivers’ first drive of the game, which went nine plays for 59 yards, all on the ground and capped off with a seven-yard scamper from senior quarterback Luis Warmack to make it 6-0 after the extra point failed.
Three Rivers got another chance on offense quickly, as they recovered the ensuing kickoff after Plainwell’s Carter Monette fumbled the line drive kick. The ‘Cats would capitalize on that mistake, with Warmack finding Lamonta Stone for 29 yards down to the Plainwell 5 on the first play of the drive. After Jace Gray and Tre Rohrer couldn’t quite make it to paydirt on three tries, Warmack executed a perfect quarterback sneak to punch in a score and make it 14-0 after Gray rushed in the two-point conversion.
Plainwell would turn it over on downs, then both teams would trade ensuing three-and-outs. On their next sustained drive, Three Rivers would make it all the way to Plainwell’s 11-yard line, but Warmack would throw an interception to the Trojans’ defensive back/quarterback Landon Devaney on a pass at the 1-yard line. Three plays later, on a Plainwell third and nine from their own 10, Devaney would throw one of his own to sophomore Blake Stewart, who ran down the right side of the field and found the house for a pick-six to make it 21-0 after the PAT, which would remain the score going into halftime.
In the second half, Three Rivers forced a three-and-out and then went on a long drive starting at its own 29. Highlighted by a 14-yard pass from Warmack to Stone, and first-down carries of 15 and 11 yards from Gray, he would cap it off with a seven-yard rushing score to make it 27-0 after the missed PAT.
Plainwell would get backed up by penalties after getting a first down on its next drive, eventually forcing a fourth-and-19 situation from the Three Rivers 43. Needing to go for it to get back in the game, the Trojans’ Devaney chucked a pass over the middle that was once again intercepted by the Wildcats’ Stewart for his second INT of the evening.
Three plays later, Three Rivers would cash in on a 17-yard run by junior running back Daeleon Galloway to make it 33-0 after a two-point try failed. That would be the score exiting the third quarter.
Plainwell would turn over the ball on downs on its first possession of the fourth quarter, with the Wildcats capitalizing on the ensuing drive, thanks in part to a 40-yard rush from Gray, who would later cap off the drive with a 15-yard rushing score to make it 39-0 after the missed extra point with less than six minutes to go in the game. A final lengthy drive by Plainwell stalled as time ran out, capped off with a wild snap over the head of wide receiver Michael Gonyeau, as the Wildcats celebrated their first win of the season.
Gray carried the rushing attack for the ‘Cats, carrying the ball 21 times for 161 yards and two touchdowns. Galloway had 42 yards and a touchdown on seven carries, while Warmack had eight carries for 25 yards and two touchdowns. Gilliam praised the rushing attack, Gray’s performance in particular.
“It’s what we’ve been trying to establish, we just kind of had to find what was going to help our players understand their assignments a little better, so we just kind of went back to basics this week, and it worked for us. We got off the ball really well, we had some nice holes, and the backs hit the hole really hard,” Gilliam said. “Jace had some really great runs, and I’m super proud of him. He played good on defense too.”
In his second week in a row as the Wildcats’ starting quarterback, Warmack went 4-of-6 for 57 yards and an interception in addition to his 25 yards on the ground. Gilliam gave kudos to Warmack, normally a wide receiver, for how he’s filled in as the starter.
“He had to take over a role we hoped he didn’t have to, but that’s just the consequences we are facing. I’m super proud of him, because he knows that his role is different now, and he’s doing a great job with it,” Gilliam said.
Stone was the leading receiver for Three Rivers, hauling in three passes for 50 yards. Ty Koenig had one catch for seven yards.
Defensively, Three Rivers was led by Stewart, who had six tackles and two interceptions on the evening. Landon Moreland had 10 tackles to lead the team in that category, Gray had seven tackles, Sam Reynolds had six, and Stone had a sack as his lone tackle on the day.
“The defense has shown flashes, and this was a complete game for them tonight,” Gilliam said. “I’m proud of them playing strong from start to finish.”
For Plainwell, Devaney was 5-of-14 passing for 19 yards and two interceptions. On the ground, Ryan McDaniel had 15 carries for 45 yards and Luke Filkins had nine carries for 44 yards, the majority of which came on the final drive of the game. Cody Williams had nine tackles to lead the Trojans.
With the win, Three Rivers moves to 1-5 on the year, and when asked if it could be the start of a much-needed winning streak for the squad, Gilliam said the team will be focusing on its next game against the Paw Paw Red Wolves on the road.
“We’re going to enjoy this, and then we’ll start focusing on Paw Paw tomorrow,” Gilliam said. “They’re a very good football team, and there’s no love lost there. We’re excited. We’ll fix the things we need to fix and get ready and prepared for them.”
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 or firstname.lastname@example.org.