Comeback kids: DeVoe, Falcons grind out third win against Pontiac

ROCHESTER HILLS — With each passing week, Rochester is finding ways to right this ship. The latest chapter came on the football field Friday night. The Falcons, who have not had a winning season since 1999, added to its win total, a rarity in the past decade, by holding off visiting Pontiac 17-13 in an OAA Red Division contest.

This is only the second time in a span of 17 seasons that Rochester (3-1, 2-1) has begun the season with a 3-1 record, with the Falcons having done so in both 1999 and 2002. In 2002, the Falcons lost their final five games that season after recording three wins in the first month.

Against Pontiac, Rochester was led by the play of junior running back Cody Devoe, who had a career-best outing.  Behind a dominating offensive line, DeVoe racked up 211 yards on 37 carries in keeping the Falcons very much alive in a hunt for a possible postseason berth.

“It was mostly the (offensive) line,” said DeVoe, giving credit to his teammates in the trenches doing the dirty work. “They made some big holes that I’d run through it. They block down, I’d take the hole and bounce it outside once in a while.

“This is a big win,” added DeVoe. “We have three winnable games next, then we can go to the playoffs. That’s our goal. It’s been a long time, but we work real well together and we (want to) accomplish our goals.”

Although the Falcons are far from ending their 11-year postseason drought, they did put a defensive number on Pontiac (2-2, 1-2), which dropped its second straight contest.

“It’s a tribute to the kids, 100 percent. The kids have done a great jobs. The kids have been working hard,” said Rochester coach Erik Vernon, whose team was 1-8 during his first season. “They have (earned it). We still have a ways to go. We’ll celebrate the win tonight, but we have a tough team next week (in Troy Athens). We’ll make sure were ready for it.”

Locked in a defensive struggle, the Falcons picked up a 30-yard field goal from Nick Reed with 8:39 left in the contest to go ahead for good at 10-7. The drive was aided by a fake punt by senior Nick Bradley, who turned and fired a 34-yard pass to Mike Kmiec for a first down on fourth-and-five.

“Bradley can punt pretty well and he also throws it well and at that time we needed a big play, so we just decided it was the right time to take a chance,” said Vernon. “That was big and really helped out a lot getting us over the hump.”

The fake punt and the ability to establish the running game led to the Phoenix demise.

“They made plays when they had to make plays and when we had some opportunities (and) we squandered them,” said Pontiac coach Brad Zube. “They had us all night. We couldn’t stop the run and if you can’t stop the run you can’t win a high school football game.”

After forcing the Phoenix to punt on their next possession, Rochester put together one last drive for what proved to be the game-winning points. Having the ball on their own 30, the Falcons put together a nine-play drive that began with 6:44 left and chopped 3:10 off the clock. The drive ended when Bradley scored on a 1-yard keeper and DeVoe aided the drive with a long, 40-yard sprint down to the Pontiac 4 two plays earlier.

Marcel Johnson picked up a fumble and Kmiec had an interception to lead the defensive unit for Rochester.

Pontiac put together one lat drive and Jonathan Steed scored on a one-yard sneak with 17.3 seconds left to close to within 17-13.  The Falcons snuffed the Phoenix on-side kick attempt to end the game.

Steed finished 12-for-23 passing for 159 yards on the night, while Anthony Adams proved to be his favorite target with eight catches for 68 yards.

Pontiac cashed in first on a quick five-play drive. Reginald Washington scored on a two-yard scamper up the middle.

Rochester, which was stalled on its first three drives including Reed missing on a 35-yard field goal, finally even up the scoreboard with 6:42 left in the half. DeVoe scored on a 4-yard run to tie the game at 7-7.

North Oakland Sports

Dan Stickradt