TUSCOLA – After his final throw fell into the waiting arms of Maroa-Forsyth's Tyler Roush, Tuscola quarterback John Wienke slowly walked off the field, his head lowered, sweat dripping from his nose.
As the Trojans clinched their 35-28 win against the reigning Class 1A state champions in front of an overflow crowd estimated at 2,000, Wienke made his way to the sideline where he hugged teammate Travis Surma.
A few yards away, 7-year-old Cale Sementi, one of the team's ballboys, wiped away tears as he tried to grasp what had just happened.
"Guys are sad," Tuscola tailback Austen Schultz said. "We really can't remember what it's like to lose."
It's been 685 days, to be exact. It was the first time in Wienke's 21 career starts he has walked off the field on the losing end.
"Champions are the person that's going to come back, and I guarantee you they will," Tuscola coach Stan Wienke said.
Maroa-Forsyth, Stan Wienke said, is by far the best team Tuscola has faced this year. But with all the mistakes the Warriors made, a win would have been almost impossible to come by. They missed tackles, missed a field goal and dropped a pass in the end zone. And the defending Class 2A state champions took advantage.
"We missed opportunities," Stan Wienke said. "You can't say that we just messed it up because we did it to them, too. We had a chance, we could have been up 28-14, but we're not."
It was 7-0 after John Wienke (15 of 34, 186 yards) capped the opening drive with an 11-yard pass to Clayton Meyer.
But as would be the case all night when Tuscola seemed to gain momentum, Maroa-Forsyth held its poise and answered. Schultz broke a 22-yard run to set up a score, and Tyler Carter got behind the Trojan defense for receptions of 39 and 36 yards. And Surma returned an interception 56 yards for a score. But none of it seemed to faze Maroa-Forsyth, which got 190 yards rushing from Roush.
"Our kids haven't been (trailing in a game) since the 2005 playoffs," Maroa-Forsyth coach Josh Jostes said. "It's been a little while, so honestly I wanted to see how our kids would respond to being down, and they responded like a champion."
Schultz (27 carries, 177 yards) was a reserve running back when the Warriors last lost a game. He didn't sulk afterward.
"It builds up our confidence," he said. "They're a great team, they're 2A champion and we hung with them. I think if we can hang with that team, I think playoffs, we have a chance."
Said Jostes: "Tuscola is an amazing team. I hope they stay 1A when the playoffs come around. I know I don't want to see them. You'd have to think they're going to be awful tough in the 1A field."
Tuscola still can finish 8-1 and secure a first-round home game in the playoffs.
"We just lost to a good team," Carter said. "Since it's not the end of the season or a playoff game, we just have to forget about it. We have to look forward."