Utica High opens season with win on last-second touchdown

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Shelby-Utica News | Published September 2, 2022

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ROCHESTER — Utica High School’s first game of the season was a roller coaster.

As Utica (1-1) trailed 21-7 on the road against Rochester High School Aug. 25, nobody would have guessed that the game would come down to the final seconds.

“We got down 14-0, and we just kind of kept clawing back,” Utica Football coach Matthew Marulli said. “The second half was a really tight back-and-forth.”

Tied at 21, Rochester took the lead with a minute left on a field goal.

Utica took possession at the 35-yard line with 50 seconds left in an effort to get past midfield, but the team would have to do it without senior starting quarterback Jack Malone. Malone, who had a rushing and passing touchdown, exited the game due to injury early in the final drive.

Junior quarterback Tyler Powrozek stepped up when Utica needed him most, delivering big play after big play, including a 30-yard pass to standout wide receiver Tommie Boyd as Utica would have one more play from the 30-yard line. Boyd finished with six receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown.

Powrozek remained poised as he launched a last-second pass to junior Numehnne Gwilly, and Gwilly focused on the tipped pass to reel in the game-winning touchdown. Utica won, 27-24.

“It was exciting; it was really exciting for the kids,” Marulli said. “They didn’t give up after we went down for the field goal; they made plays, and it was really exciting for them to get that great finish.”

Utica would have never been in the position to win if it weren’t for junior Isaiah McGarry’s interception before halftime. McGarry’s interception led to Malone’s rushing touchdown to close out the half.

“It was a huge play for us,” Marulli said. “It definitely gave us some momentum going into the half.”

Junior Jayden McBain, who had 96 yards on the ground, tallied a rushing touchdown to tie the game up at 21.

Utica, which lost to Macomb Dakota Sept. 1, will open Macomb Area Conference-White play at home against Grosse Pointe South (0-2) Sept. 9.