By Brian Paglia
Dutchtown's traditional formula for success -- a ball-control offense and stingy defense -- needed an added element Friday at Union Grove.
The Bulldogs' Double Wing offense did not churn out yards with its customary proficiency. But that proved inconsequential.
Instead, Dutchtown got big plays on special teams and offense from Kellan Holiday and a momentum-shaking interception return for a touchdown by Aaron Johnson that set the tone for the Bulldogs' 34-10 victory in a key Region 3A-AAAA game.
Dutchtown coached Jason Galt declared the victory a defining moment for the program.
"For so long, since I've been here, everybody's been talking about Union Grove," Galt said. "The kids have heard it their whole time coming up, so the kids really went into this game with a chip on their shoulder. They wanted to win this football game."
"Everybody's been saying that Union Grove's the top team in the county and we can't beat them," Johnson said. "Tonight we proved that we can beat them."
Despite Union Grove's reputation, it was Dutchtown (6-0, 3-0) that entered undefeated, with its season building into something unique for the seventh-year program, and the Bulldogs asserted themselves early.
Dutchtown forced Union Grove (2-4, 2-1) to punt on its first possession, and Holiday weaved through traffic, cutting across the field, to the Wolverines 16-yard line. On the Bulldogs' first play, Mychael Brown (12 carries, 63 yards) took a toss right, broke a few tackles near the goal line and scored from 16 yards out.
When a failed fake punt on its own 16-yard line allowed Union Grove to tie the game on a 14-yard run by T.J. Moon (20 carries, 62 yards), Galt felt the burden of a risky call gone awry.
"It was just a dumb call," Galt said. "I should've played the percentages."
Johnson bailed him out. Two plays into Union Grove's next possession, Wolverines quarterback Ty Moore's pass was deflected into the air by Dutchtown outside linebacker Rodney Brown. Johnson caught the deflection, shed a tackle and returned the interception 25 yards to give Dutchtown a 14-7 lead.
"Rodney was making plays all night," Johnson said. "He tipped it up in the air, and I was right there to get it."
"I was kicking myself for making that call," Galt said. "Then we get that touchdown and it kind of made me feel a little bit better about myself."
Galt surely felt even better on Dutchtown's next possession. Starting on its own 44, Brown ran for a short loss, but Galt noticed something in Union Grove's defense, something he could exploit.
The next play, Dutchtown quarterback Wendall Long connected with Holiday on a slant over the middle. Without a safety in sight, Holiday ran 57 yards for the score to put Dutchtown up 21-7 in the second quarter.
"That's a play for us the last three years that's been a big play for us," Galt said. "They were giving us something that we liked and we took advantage of it."
The momentum-swinging plays from Holiday and Johnson helped overshadowed a rather anemic offensive performance by both teams. Dutchtown out-gained Union Grove, 196-164, and lost Brown, the team's leading rusher, to an ankle sprain in the third quarter.
But Dutchtown held Moon to just 12 yards on five carries on the second half as it built a 27-10 lead behind two field goals by Ryan Kay. Union Grove had to pass, had to endure relentless blitzing by Dutchtown, which the Wolverine were unable to control.
"We just couldn't get anything sustained offensively and couldn't get a big play," Union Grove coach Paul Burgdorf said. "They put a lot of pressure on us tonight."