A fourth-down call late in the game didn’t work out in Lindeman’s favor, Stockbridge capitalized and all of a sudden a 7-all game with 3:48 remaining became a 20-7 home loss at the hands of a team that finished 1-8 last year.
“We let them know there are growing pains. Teams all over the state of Michigan, all over the country, from Pop Warner to the NFL are going through the growing pains of a new coach, new system,” Lindeman said. “We just tell them we’ll come back tomorrow, watch film, look at the good and bad things and we’ll grow.”
Lindeman said he must continue to mature as a head coach each week and he took the brunt of the blame for deciding to go for it on 4th-and-2 from the Comets’ 30-yard line in the final minutes of a tie game.
“We called a trap up the middle, they lined up six men up front playing head up on our guards, it was wide open…actually I looked at my offensive line coach and said, ‘We’ve got it, it’s the perfect defense for the call,” he said. “Their defensive tackle made a great play. That goes on me, you live and learn.”
Stockbridge then methodically moved down the field with two first downs and junior halfback Matt Klann scored on a run up the middle with 48.6 seconds showing on the clock, to give the Panthers a one-touchdown lead.
Jonesville junior Spencer Nielsen threw an interception on the Comets next play from scrimmage, and the Panthers added another touchdown in the waning seconds.
Stockbridge head coach Jeremy Killinger said he had an idea of what Lindeman was going to run on the fourth-down play and his squad “manned up when it mattered most.”
“Well we figured they would gut us. All night they had some big guys moving and were running off tackle, so we just played with a lot of heart and stopped them,” he said. “We had a rough season last year and we did a lot of offseason growth and these guys came together and played like a real family tonight and put aside any differences they might have and they played well.”
For Jonesville the most disheartening part of the defeat might be how they controlled the contest for long stretches at times. They ate up almost 10 minutes of clock using four different backs on one first-half drive; and on just the second pass of his career Nielsen threw a near-perfect 47-yard touchdown strike to senior John Sigler down the right sideline to give the Comets a 7-0 lead 21 seconds before halftime.
It would be the Comets only completion of the night as Nielsen went 1-for-4, but Lindeman said his stat-line may have looked different if the Comets had converted the crucial fourth-down.
“If we get that first down on fourth down we were actually going to go spread,” he said. “We wanted to do that in the second half a little bit more, but every time we got the ball we were pinned inside our 20.”
The Panthers weapon of choice Friday was junior quarterback Jeff O’Brien. O’Brien busted up the right sideline for a 37-yard QB keeper on Stockbridge’s first play from scrimmage and that was a sign of things to come.
He finished the night with 146 yards rushing on 29 carries and he added 92 yards passing on six completions.
Lindeman said O’Brien was the obvious difference maker.
“O’Brien is a stud, he’s a man among boys and he put that team on his shoulders tonight, especially late in the third and fourth quarter,” he said. “He said ‘I’m going to win this ball game and it’s going to take more than one or two guys to bring me down.'”
Turnovers balanced out as each squad lost two fumbles and Lindeman said the next step for his team is learning how to be consistent on each snap.
“It’s a learning curve. On film we’ll see guys who made great plays one play and the very next play they’d be the one who got ran over or ran around,” he said.
Junior Dominic Mulkey lead the Comets with 63 yards on the ground, while Trevor Kelley added 31 and Sigler tallied 29.
Jake Harden and Kelley recovered fumbles in the contest.
Klann ran for 57 yards for Stockbridge and Chad Snyder caught the 33-yard touchdown pass at the end of the game.
Jonesville hosts Union City next week.