" "What a great game," Tunney said. "I'm so proud of our kids, and the way they just kept fighting. They are a resilient group of kids, and I couldn't be happier for them. "

BOYNE CITY -- Grayling's chances in the Division 6 district championship game on the road against Boyne City on Saturday afternoon didn't look all that good at halftime.

It wasn't just that the Vikings trailed the Ramblers, 14-7 after jumping out to a quick 7-0 lead, but they had turned the ball over four times in the first 30 minutes, on two interceptions and a pair of fumbles.

The second interception, near the end of the first half, was returned for the score that gave the Ramblers (6-3) a one score lead and momentum to take into the locker room.

Coach Eric Tunney decided to challenge the Vikings, and the halftime speech -- which pointed out that the players' body language was not good, and noting that despite the four turnovers Grayling only trailed by seven points -- had the desired effect.

Scoring 14 unanswered points in the third quarter the Vikings took a 21-14 lead and never looked back, coming away with a 28-20 victory and their first district title in 15 years, since 2005.

"What a great game," Tunney said. "I'm so proud of our kids, and the way they just kept fighting. They are a resilient group of kids, and I couldn't be happier for them.

"I'm happy for our whole school and community. Everyone's been through so much recently, and we're still going through it. But it just adds some excitement and joy to a lot of people."

With the win, Grayling (6-3) was supposed to host a regional game for the first time in program history this week. But the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has put a hold on everything with the continued unchecked surge in COVID-19 cases and no one is certain of the future.

The pause is scheduled for three weeks, but could be extended if the spread of the disease is not slowed significantly enough during that time. A national lockdown is also possible once Joe Biden is inaugurated as the 46th president.

If the MDHH's pause of organized sports last the full three weeks, which seems likely, the Michigan High School Athletic Association says it will plan to finish the remaining football games by the end of December.

Remember, though, that the MHSAA also figured on being able to finish the winter tournaments that were postponed in March because of the coronavirus, but couldn't do it.

So, the season could be over for the Vikings.

If it is, it was a great finish. After winning their season opener over Kalkaska, although the MHSAA has listed it as a forfeit by the Blazers, the Vikings lost their next three.

But the Vikings have won five straight games, and whether the season is resumed or not, this will be remembered as one of the Vikings most incredible seasons.

"I've been fortunate to have played and coached in some big football games, but I've never received so many messages after any of them compared to those I got after Saturday's game," Tunney said.

"Friends, co-workers, community members, area coaches, and probably my favorite, our former players were blowing my phone up all day and night. This one was for all who've come before, and for our whole community."

Grayling quarterback Hunter Ventline gave the Vikings a 7-0 lead when he scored on a 15-yard run. But the Ramblers answered with a two-yard run to trail by just one point, 7-6 at the end of the first quarter.

The Vikings stumbled in the second quarter, with Ventline throwing an interception and the usually sure-handed David Millikin putting the ball on the ground twice.

Bobby Hoth intercepted another pass later in the quarter and returned it for a touchdown to send the Ramblers into the locker room at halftime with a 14-7 lead.

"I challenged them at halftime," Tunney said, "I told them that our body language wasn't good. We had four turnovers the first half, and were down only one score. Usually, it's worse than that."

The Vikings responded just the way Tunney hoped, exerting their will on the Ramblers in the second half.

Grayling scored twice in the second half, first on a short four-yard burst by Millikin and then on a 56-yard pass from Ventline to Dylan Cragg to retake the lead, 21-14.

Although the Ramblers narrowed the gap to one again, 21-20, with a touchdown from Hoth at the start of the fourth quarter, they fumbled the ball on the two-point conversion attempt that would have given the lead back.

The Ramblers then gambled later in the quarter when they faced a fourth-and-19 at midfield and went for it, and failed to get the necessary yardage.

Not long after, the Vikings put the finishing touches on the win when Millikin raced 50 yards down the sideline for a touchdown to increase Grayling's lead to eight.

"These kids are Grayling strong, and Viking tough," Tunney said. "To see the joy and excitement from them and everyone else is just a good feeling. It would have been easy to fold at halftime, down a TD and four turnovers, not playing well.

"It would have been easy to fold when we lost to Kingsley and were 1-3. Coach Ferguson addressed them before we left for the game and he talked to them about heart, and how it doesn't matter how talented you are, but you have to have heart.

"These kids don't quit. They showed their heart in that second half. They're building skills that are going to help them throughout their lives. So proud and happy for them and our whole community. A big thanks to all of Viking Nation."

Ventline finished 10 of 16 for 158 yards and a TD. Millikin gained 115 yards rushing on 25 carries and two TD's. Ventline ran the ball five times for 31 yards and a TD.

Cragg had four catches for 91 yards and a TD, while Drew Kanary hauled in three receptions for 43 yards.