LINTON -- Mayville-Portland-Clifford-Galesburg made a case on Saturday afternoon that regular-season records mean absolutely nothing in the postseason.
The Patriots entered their 9-man first-round playoff game with a 3-4 overall record, but went on to defeat the 7-1 Linton-Hazelton-Moffit-Braddock Lions 22-16 on Linton-HMB's home field. May-Port-CG built a 22-0 first-half lead and held on for its first postseason victory since 2008.
Patriots quarterback Reese Hanson said his team's 3-4 regular-season record is deceiving.
"Our record isn't good, but we think we have a winning football team," said Hanson, who passed for 81 yards and rushed for another 40 on Saturday. "We play in a tough region and we lost to good teams, but playing teams like that helped to prepare us for the postseason. Not a lot of people expected us to come down here and win, but we beat a good team today."
May-Port-CG will take on Nelson County (6-2) on Saturday in a second-round game.
The Patriots started Saturday's game with a bang, scoring two touchdowns in the first 6:40. Their first possession began inside their own 1-yard line, but running back Sam Satrom took a handoff, burst up the middle and didn't stop running until he reached the end zone. Hanson ran for the 2-point conversion to give May-Port-CG an 8-0 lead with 7:35 remaining in the first quarter.
Hanson said the Patriots couldn't have asked for a better confidence-booster.
"Here we were, on the road and pinned back inside our own one, but one play was all it took to get a touchdown and the lead," he said. "That really fired us up. There was still a lot of game left, but it always helps to score first in a game like this."
The Patriots caught a break two plays after the ensuing kickoff when Linton-HMB lost a fumble on its own 40. Three plays later, Hanson -- under heavy pressure -- found Tristan Beck for a 37-yard score with 5:20 left in the first.
Later, Hanson scored on a 45-yard keeper and passed to Rylee Thompson for the 2-pointer to give the Patriots a 22-0 lead with 4:54 remaining in the second quarter.
Linton-HMB moved the football effectively in the first half, but committed a turnover inside the red zone on one possession, and was held on downs on the May-Port-CG 35- and 10-yard lines on two others.
"We gave up some big plays in the first half, and we were unable to get a big play when we needed one," said Linton-HMB coach Paul Keeney. "We had some opportunities to put some points on the board, but we couldn't capitalize."
The trend continued in the third quarter as the Lions were held on downs on the May-Port-CG 35, and committed another red-zone turnover on their first two possessions of the second half. However, Linton-HMB finally got on the board with 9:48 left in the game when running back Landon Twardoski scored from eight yards out, capping a 14-play, 80-yard drive. Quarterback Cole Baumiller passed to Jack McCrory for the 2-pointer to make it 22-8.
The Patriots were forced to punt on their next possession, but the kick was partially blocked and downed on the Linton-HMB 39. Seven plays later, Baumiller and McCrory connected for a 19-yard score, and Baumiller ran for the 2-pointer to pull the Lions within six, 22-16, with 3:52 left.
After the ensuing kickoff, May-Port-CG faced a third-and-seven on its own 43, but on the play, Hanson threw a deep pass to Beck, who wrestled the ball away from McCrory on the Linton-HMB 33 for a first down.
Hanson said Beck is the Patriots' go-to receiver.
"Whenever we need a big pass play, we go to (Beck)," he said. "If the ball is anywhere near him, I'm confident he's going to go after it and get it. That was a huge play. Linton had some momentum going, and if Tristan hadn't made that catch they would have gotten the ball back with plenty of time left."
The Patriots then used six running plays to run out the remaining time. The final nail in the coffin was Nathan McClenahen's 6-yard run for a first down on a third-and-four play with 1:05 remaining.
Satrom, who had to leave the game in the second quarter because of an injury, and McClenahen rushed for 115 and 93 yards, respectively, for the Patriots, who racked up 253 yards on the ground.
For the Lions, Baumiller completed 21 of 42 passes for 248 yards. McCrory had five receptions for 88 yards, and Chandler Nagel five for 56. The Linton-HMB ground game, however, produced 90 yards on 30 carries.