Head coach Tony Annese channeled his inner Bill Yoast at Northern Michigan and decided to “leave no doubt,” as Yoast puts it in the Disney movie “Remember the Titans.”
A seven play, 93-yard drive that was capped by a Jake Lampman 13-yard touchdown reception ended with just nine seconds remaining in regulation. Down 31-30, Annese pulled out all the stops and decided to go for the kill rather than overtime.
The gamble paid off, as junior wide receiver Torico Searcy found himself in the endzone, giving the Bulldogs a one-point lead. A desperation heave by Northern Michigan fell harmlessly to the Superior Dome turf, and Ferris found itself at 7-4.
The win marks the second time in 10 years that Ferris football has won seven games, the last being an eight win 2006 campaign.
Though the Bulldogs will miss the playoffs this year, 2012 marks a changing in the program. Seniors linebacker Tayo Moss, defensive end Brad Iskow, defensive end Jordan Morgan, running back Skyler Stoker, defensive back Jaime Barrera and wide receiver Kevin Guirand are on their way out, but Annese has put Ferris football back on the map.
“I feel like the coaching staff put a lot more emphasis on unity and team,” sophomore wide receiver Jake Lampman said.
The Bulldogs used a wide array of backs in rushing this season, to the point where they led the GLIAC in rushing. The next closest team in the conference, Ohio Dominican, racked up 600 fewer yards on the ground
“We feel like we beat ourselves this year,” Lampman said. “We feel as if we have the skill set and game plan to beat any team we play.”
The 7-4 Bulldogs were not without their flaws despite their record.
Lampman cited the inability to get all three phases of the game on the same page every game. In a game where the offense clicked, Vander Laan had five total touchdowns and 300 yards passing against Michigan Tech, while the Bulldogs gave up 543 yards and 49 points narrowly defeating MTU.
In a game where the defense held Walsh to 14 points, the Bulldogs’ offense didn’t seem to wake up until their 14 point fourth quarter, which propelled them to a 20-14 win.
The team consistently scored points and broke team rushing records this season.
Yet with the Bulldogs’ four best defenders in Iskow, Morgan, Moss and Barrera departing, Ferris will need to fill the holes on defense.
Annese has changed the team’s mindset and put it in a complete 180-degree spin from years past.
“I feel like we’re done losing,” Lampman said. “We’re not that team on the schedule that people look at and say, ‘We almost lost to [Ferris].’ We’re going to be a powerhouse football team.”
There will be an exciting off-season full of anticipation ahead, and with the confidence pouring out of the locker room, there isn’t much doubt of where Annese has his dogs are headed.