Alma, Mich. - The Alma College football team contained the Albion Britons, one of the best offenses in Division III, for much of the game but could not hold them down for a full 60 minutes, falling 37-34 in double overtime on Alma's Homecoming Saturday (Sept. 29).
In both programs' Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association opener, the Scots held a seven-point lead with 1:43 remaining in regulation and had Albion pinned back with a 4th & 10 on their own 22, but the Britons converted the first down and drove the final 57 yards in six plays to tie the game with 10 seconds left and force overtime. After offsetting field goals in the first extra period, Alma's next field goal attempt was just wide of the target, hitting the goal post. Albion would not miss its attempt to win.
Alma (1-3, 0-1 MIAA) used both Mason Ippel (Jenison, Mich. / Jenison) and Ryan Stevens (Lowell, Mich. / Lowell) as its quarterbacks during the game. Ippel went 10-of-22 for 141 yards and one interception. Stevens went seven of nine for 137 yards and a score. Fifty-two of those yards came on a pitch and catch to sophomore tight end Joseph Schaefer (Lowell, Mich. / Lowell); it led to the field goal that gave Alma a 31-24 lead with 1:36 left in the second half. Junior running back Austin Spratling (Grand Rapids, Mich. / Wyoming Kelloggsville) had 92 rushing yards on 22 carries, while both Ippel and Stevens had 27 yards and one touchdown each on the ground. Schaefer had a career-high five receptions and 111 yards. All five of Schaefer's catches came from Stevens, which should come as no surprise after looking at their history — the duo played together at Lowell High School.
The defense held the Britons' (4-0, 1-0 MIAA) attack mostly in check. It forced three turnovers, all by quarterback Kyle Thomas. Thomas entered the game with two interceptions in three games; he threw two against the Scots and also fumbled right into the arms of senior linebacker Jake Curtin (Brighton, Mich. / Howell), who sprinted for a 31-yard touchdown to open the scoring. Alma held the Britons to 20 fewer points than their season average entering the game despite Albion putting up 532 yards of total offense.
- Both teams punted before the first score. Senior linebacker Gunner Lamb (Whitehall, Mich. / Whitehall) forced Albion quarterback Kyle Thomas to fumble which Jake Curtin scooped up and returned for a touchdown.
- Alma forced Thomas into his second turnover on the ensuing drive. Senior defensive back Seth Dixon (Lapeer, Mich. / Lapeer) was in the perfect spot to receive an overthrow by Thomas. Stevens came out for the first time to lead the offense down the field for a score. He had a 19-yard pass to Schaefer and a 16-yard pass to senior wide receiver Alex Yancy (Macomb, Mich. / L'Anse Creuse North) to get down to Albion's four-yard line and capped off the drive with a four-yard rushing score.
- Albion would score the next 17 points. Running back Markell McCoy came out angry to start the next drive. He had runs of 13 and 20 yards to help bring the Britons from their own nine-yard line to their own 42. From there, Thomas found Kolby Canfield three times for eight, 13, and 14 yards, the final completion coming in the end zone for Albion's first score.
- The Britons would tie the game on a balanced drive — six rushes and five passes across 75 yards — on their first drive of the second quarter. They would add a field goal on their last drive of the half to take a 17-14 lead, their first of the game.
- Both teams went three-and-out to begin the second half, but would later score on three consecutive possessions. Michael Hallada (Lakeview, Mich. / Lakeview) intercepted Thomas on Albion's second time out. Four plays later, Ippel found Chase Krueger (Grand Rapids, Mich. / Forest Hills Eastern) for 28 yards to get down to the one-yard line. Ippel punched it in, himself, on the next play to put the Scots back on top, 21-17.
- After a 16-yard rushing score by Thomas, Stevens again took the field and led Alma down the field to regain the lead, though most of the work was done by Spratling — he had seven rushes for 49 yards on the drive. Later, Stevens found Schaefer up the seam for a 14-yard score to give the Scots a 28-24 lead at the 1:12 mark of the third quarter.
- Neither team would score again until there was 1:43 remaining in regulation. Alma, trying to milk the clock and secure points, killed 4:28 and forced the Britons to burn all of their timeouts before Jacob Plisko (Livonia, Mich. / Livonia Stevenson) made a 22-yard field goal to give his team a 31-24 lead.
- Alma forced three incompletions on the ensuing Briton drive before Kyle Thomas connected with Justin Thomas for a 21-yard gain on 4th & 10 to keep the drive alive. Thomas would go on to complete passes of 15, 12, and 20 yards before running for the final 10 to tie the game with 10 seconds left. Alma took a knee after the kickoff to send the game to overtime.
- Albion was forced to kick a field goal after gaining just four yards on its drive. Alma got down to the six-yard line but failed to convert and had to settle for the game-tying field goal.
- In the second overtime, Plisko was forced into a 37-yard field goal which clanked off the left upright. Albion didn't miss the opportunity - it gained nine yards to give Andrew Fabry an opportunity to make a 33-yard field goal and steal the victory, which he did.
- The Scots outgained Albion through the air. The Britons averaged 350 passing yards entering the game — Alma held them to 259 and netted 278, themselves.
- Austin Spratling's 22 carries are a new career-high. His 92 yards is the most he's gained since Sept. 16, 2017, against Benedictine when he totaled 107.
- Jake Curtin's fumble recovery and touchdown were both career-firsts.
- Senior defensive back Alex Szajko (Flint, Mich. / Mt. Morris) made a career-high 15 tackles. He leads the MIAA with 45 tackles, averaging 11.3 per game. He is the only player in the conference to average double-digit tackles this season.
- Junior linebacker Zeke Ramirez (Homer, Mich. / Homer) eclipsed the 10-tackle mark for the first time in his career.
- Jachai Wheatley (Wyoming, Mich. / Kelloggsville) made 10 tackles in his first game with Alma since the 2015 season.
- Michael Hallada had a career-high three pass breakups in the game.
- All five of Alma's pass catchers had over 12 yards per reception.
- Albion consistently ran a hurry-up offense. It totaled 532 yards of total offense on 94 plays, averaging 5.7 yards per play. Alma had 428 yards of total offense on 78 plays, nearly matching Albion's average at 5.5 yards per play.
- Neither team registered a sack. Albion leads the MIAA with 17 sacks this season.
- Alma was called for only three penalties in the game for 15 yards. Both are season lows.
What He Said
"I couldn't be more proud to be a Scot and lead this football team. Our guys played with great heart and class. We will continue to represent this great college well and prepare for next week."
- Head Coach Jason Couch
Alma's schedule only gets tougher. It travels to Trine University to face the No. 15 Thunder on Saturday, Oct. 6, at 1 p.m. Trine opened the season as the favorites to win the MIAA. It defeated Hope 35-25 on Saturday.