In a clash of reigning league champs to open up the 2019 season, Riverview Gabriel Richard treated its home crowd to the first win over Grosse Ile in school history.
The Pioneers nabbed four interceptions and virtually halted the Grosse Ile run game on the way to a 21-15 win to start the season.
“Feels awesome,” said Richard coach Thomas Michalsen. “We’ve kind of been working toward this one since June. Our school’s never beat them.”
With 1:26 left in the fourth, Grosse Ile went deep to potentially take the lead for a Week 1 comeback, but junior quarterback Nate Brown was intercepted by senior Robbie Henderson in the red zone. Henderson was a member of Richard’s basketball team and, prior to tonight’s game, had never played a down of organized football. His first career interception sealed the win for the Pioneers and continued a dominant game for the Richard defense.
“We’ve had a lot of tough games like this,” Michalsen said. “We trust our kids, so we were composed. Kids did everything we asked them to do.”
One of those tough games was a 27-24 loss to the Devils in the 2018 season opener. For Grosse Ile, the win that night kicked off what would be an undefeated run through the regular season.
On Thursday, the Pioneers got on the board first with a perfect lob pass from junior quarterback Joe Wisniewski to senior receiver Quinn Hess from 20 yards out with about five minutes left in the first quarter.
The Devils answered on the following drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Brown to senior Max Athens, and a fake PAT wound up a successful 2-point conversion to give the visitors an 8-7 advantage.
Faced with a fourth-and-goal situation from two yards out, Richard’s senior fullback Nathan Palumbo punched up the gut to give the Pioneers a lead that they would keep for the rest of the night.
Grosse Ile brought it to within six points late in the fourth quarter with a 5-yard touchdown run from junior Joey Pizzo, but the comeback attempt fizzled out with the late interception.
Blitz packages and tight coverage in Richard’s secondary led to a rough night for Brown and the Devils. Brown ended the night with 241 passing yards, a touchdown and four interceptions, including two near the goal line.
Rushing was nearly impossible for the Devils, as the team totaled just 43 yards on 18 attempts.
“With the league we play in, you have to bear down and get those tough yards,” said Grosse Ile coach John Bodner. “They just kind of handcuffed us.” “Nate’s a young quarterback and made some decisions that were good and some that weren’t the best,” Bodner said. “We did exactly what we wanted to do at the end. We had all the momentum and we just couldn’t get those plays when we needed them.”
Up next, Richard will hit the road for a meeting with Clio on Friday, Sept. 6 while Grosse Ile will have its home opener against Huron League foe Milan on the same night.