Fruitport gains ownership of the Wooden Oar after defeating Spring Lake

By David Tomczak
Local Sports Journal

Fruitport coach Greg Vargas was all smiles after Friday night’s 15-6 Lakes 8 Conference win over Spring Lake.

After five years as an assistant coach for the Trojans, Vargas got to experience firsthand what it felt like to defeat their rivals as the man in charge.

“I might’ve underestimated this game,” Vargas said after the home win. “Getting this win, my first (against Spring Lake) as the head coach, is satisfying. I think the kids were more excited for me than themselves.”

The victory also gave the Vargas and the Trojans the first victory in the “Bayou Battle,” the new name given to the annual showdown between the two clubs. The Trojans now own the Wooden Oar Trophy.

After the game, the oar, which is painted half blue and half red along the paddle and includes both teams’ logos, was held high by the Trojans players as they were surrounded by students.

“It wasn’t pretty, that’s for sure,” Vargas said of the win. “But with close rivals you throw the records out.”

A steady rain helped contribute to the teams going scoreless in the first quarter and combining for five fumbles, although none resulted in a turnover.

Early in the second quarter, Fruitport took advantage of back-to-back Spring Lake personal fouls to move inside the Lakers 10, but had to settle for a Matt Boroff 27-yard field goal attempt, which sailed wide right.

On the ensuing possession, the Lakers’ Cody Berkobien broke off a 55-yard run before being dragged down at the 1-yard line. Quarterback Jake Chittenden scored on the next play and the Lakers held a 6-0 lead with 4:43 left in the first half.

“Berkobien didn’t play last week against (Mona) Shores and him returning is a big difference for us,” Lakers coach Jerry Rabideau said.

Fruitport’s Mitchell Reyes returned the ensuing kickoff 35 yards to the Lakers’ 45, setting up a short field for the Trojans. But the Lakers’ Charlie Warber picked off a pass two plays later.

Spring Lake’s next drive lasted only one play before the Trojans Dakota Gordon came up with a fumble recovery, setting Fruitport up at the Lakers’ 16-yard line.

“We’ve had 10 turnovers in three games,” Rabideau said. “We are just hurting ourselves, with either personal fouls or turnovers. We have to fix the things that are controllable.”

The Trojans didn’t waste any time turning the game’s first recovered fumble into points as Gordon took the ensuing handoff and sprinted past the Spring Lake defense for a 16-yard score.

Both teams failed on their extra point attempts and went to the half tied at 6-all.

Reyes once again set his offense up in Spring Lake territory, taking the second half kickoff back 77 yards to the Lakers 10.

“I was just following my blockers and found a good hole and broke it open,” said Reyes, who had 112 total return yards. “We don’t really work on it (in practice) a lot, but when we do we go hard.”

Spring Lake’s defense was able to keep the Trojans out of the end zone, and Boroff connected on a 29-yard field goal for a 9-6 Fruitport lead with 10:40 left in the third.

Neither team threatened until midway through the fourth, when Spring Lake used a seven play drive to reach the Trojans 26. But after losing two yards on third down, a 4-and-8 pass attempt fell incomplete.

Fruitport took possession, and with 3:15 left in the game and facing a 3-and-8, quarterback Tyler Fehler hit tight end Amilio Flores down the middle of the field for a 21-yard gain and a first down.

“Even though we dropped a few balls, they weren’t respecting the tight end and we got him open down the middle,” Vargas said. “Some of the opportunities we had, I expected us to put more points on the board.”

Gordon would finish off the Lakers, and ensure the Wooden Oar would spend its first year in the Trojans’ trophy case, with a 6-yard TD with 1:22 left.

Fruitport finished with 174 total yards, 115 on the ground. Gordon led the rushing attack with 12 carries for 57 yards and Shawn Knox added 37 yards on eight carries.

Tyler Fehler was 3-for-11 passing for 59 yards and Aaron Veihl had two receptions for 38 yards. Gordon also led the defense with 11 tackles.

Spring Lake had 153 total yards, with 140 coming on the ground. Berkobien finished with 14 carries for 110 yards before leaving the game with an injury.

Jakob Frederick led the Lakers defense with eight tackles and AJ Lisman finished with seven.

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