Redskins battle to the end, but ousted at Regional by Unity Christian

Butch Hindenach •
Paw Paw’s Nolan Beck (20) was a busy man Friday night against Hudsonville Unity Christian. The  senior turned in the best night of his career, carrying the ball for 151 yards in a Regional matchup of the MHSAA football playoffs.  The Redskins fell in defeat, only their second loss of the season. Hot Shotz Photography/Matthew Day

   PAW PAW - A great season of Paw Paw high school football came to an end on a cold Friday night in Regional tournament play, when the Redskins suffered a 38-17 defeat at the hands of the Hudsonville Unity Christian Crusaders at Falan Field. 
   The matchup was between a Redskin team totally committed to the run in a ball control offense, and the Unity squad which struck like lightening without  warning.  The ball possession statistic at game’s end showed the home team grinding out turf a few yards at a time to hold onto the football nearly three quarters of the game time, while the five Hudsonville touchdowns were scored in a total of 15 plays from scrimmage.
   Unity Christian took the opening kick, and within two minutes had crossed the goal line from 17 yards out for a very early lead.
   The Reds’ first possession went three-and-out, and the Crusaders took over on their own 30; they needed just two plays with a 62-yard scamper to give them a 14-point advantage still early in the first period of play. 
   This time the Red and White answered by moving down the field, thanks in large measure to a 48-yard sideline run by Nolan Beck. Connor Hindenach, usually a lead blocker in the offense, then shed three would-be tacklers to move the ball to the one. On the next play, his twin brother Kolby deposited the pigskin in the end zone’s frozen grass. Claudia Muessig’s point-after kick cut the lead in half.
   The next Crusader drive took the longest time of the entire evening, ending when the Redskins defense stiffened and Hudsonville settled for a 30-yard field goal for a 17-7 margin. 
   With 3:15 left in the first half, Unity Christian struck again on a 52-yard dash in four plays, that began at the Crusaders’ own 40 yard line.
   It appeared Paw Paw might answer in the waning minutes, after a successful 24-yard pass from Jason Rocz to Beck. But the drive stalled at the 17 to bring on intermission.
   The Redskins came out to commence the second half with a drive that reached the shadow of the goal line, but Connor Hindenach’s apparent touchdown run was negated by an infraction and Muessig was called on for a field goal attempt from 25 yards out. She split the uprights with the kick cutting the lead to 14 points.
   On the ensuing kickoff Ryan Estes’ pooch kick was covered by Beck, setting Paw Paw up in good field position. But the visitors held on their own 34 yard line to start up their offense again. For the only time all night, the Paw Paw defense forced a punt, but the Reds were unable to move the ball, spending much of the final quarter deep in their own end of the field on offense. 
   Later in the final period, the Crusaders tallied again with a 37-yard pass and run and a 38-yard dash to goal. 
   To their credit, when trailing by 28, Paw Paw mounted its best attack of the game, marching 80 yards, with Nate Harden scoring on the final play of the game.
   The quicker and faster Crusaders team held the Redskins to near their lowest offensive output of the season, but as shown by the last second touchdown, the Redskins battled until the final horn.  
   Beck completed his football career at Paw Paw with a career best 151 yards on the ground, and will be missed a great deal next season along with other seniors Mason Popp, Levi Penning, Andrew Vorce, Kayden McClish, Muessig, Harden, Cade Shipley, Connor Hood, Estes, Jesse Perez, Steve DeYoung, Joshua Mayne, and Logan Cummings. 
   At the same time a talented group of juniors will be back along with some help coming up from the JV team.  
   Paw Paw finished the season with a record of 10-2. The Redskins’ two losses came at the hands of teams that were state titleists in 2018, both making deep runs in the tourney this year also.


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