GWINN - Playing a full season would've been a victory for the Gwinn High School varsity football team after having to suspend its program halfway through last season.
Winning a game has been a plus after that short-circuited campaign was fruitless in the win column.
Now the Modeltowners have not only put together a winning streak, but aren't out of the picture for the MHSAA playoffs after they turned back Detroit Westside Christian Academy, 24-14, at home on Friday night.
Gwinn improved to 3-4 and would need wins in its final two games at home against Norway and Ishpeming to become playoff eligible, though not as an automatic qualifier.
"Things are kind of falling into place," Modeltowners first-year head coach Darren Sinnaeve said. "We had a tough stretch to start the season, playing four of our first five games on the road.
"Now we've got the last four at home and Homecoming is next week.
"The guys keep working hard in practice, and when you keep plugging away, good things usually start happening," he added.
The Modeltowners ran the ball both through and around the Warriors despite their foes often putting nine and 10 players in the box to stop that part of their game.
Gwinn finished with 61 running plays for 278 yards, good for about 4 1/2 yards per try, led by senior Cody Norman's 106 yards on 14 tries.
"We were going to run it down their throats," GHS junior quarterback Justin Nyquist said.
On the other side of the ball, Westside junior QB Brian Henderson put up 25 passes, but only five were completed for 101 yards.
Henderson also had a pass intercepted at a crucial point of the game. While playing safety, Nyquist snatched a Warriors' pass out of the air late in the third quarter. It came on the first play from scrimmage after senior teammate Caleb Floars scored a 4-yard TD and Nyquist connected with senior Steve Uhlbeck on the two-part conversion to make it 24-8.
While the Modeltowners didn't score after taking over near midfield, they ran the four minutes off the fourth-quarter clock. It proved pivotal. Also the Gwinn punter, Nyquist, pinned Westside back on its 7-yard line. But this time, the Warriors' Martez Jones broke free around the left sideline and sprinted 93 yards for a TD, his second of the game.
With the PAT run failing, the 1-6 Detroit team still trailed by two scores.
"We're a young team, and we're still learning football and learning how to play the game," Westside coach Sean Tarrant said.
Norman scored the only TD of the first half on the opening drive of the game on a 20-yard scamper up the left sideline. The score culminated an eight-play drive, all rushes for no more than eight yards until Norman broke free for the TD.
Henderson continually tried throws both long and short, but was constantly harassed by oncoming Gwinn rushers.
"We put in a blitz at times," junior Owen DeVooght said. "(Sophomore defensive end) Justin Beauchamp really did a great job with three sacks. He really stepped it up this game."
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.