Zeeland East spoils Reeths-Puffer’s homecoming

By Justin Haggerty
Local Sports Journal

After losing the last two games, and scoring just 15 points in the process, the Reeths-Puffer Rockets looked to steady the ship against winless Zeeland East on Friday night.

Things didn’t go the way the Rockets hoped on homecoming weekend as they succumbed to the Chix, 39-34.Shoreline football instory art

After Zeeland East took a 7-0 lead, Reeths-Puffer senior running back Dereko Riley took a handoff to the left and into the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown. However, the extra point attempt was no good and the Chix still led 7-6 after the first quarter.

The only scoring in the second quarter was a 61-yard touchdown pass from Zeeland East quarterback Dan Pohanka to wide receiver Mitch DeKraker to up the lead to 13-6.

A theme for the Rockets throughout the game was penalties. Totaling five penalties (three of them holding) for 40 yards in the first half, Reeths-Puffer just couldn’t get the ball moving.

“You just can’t kill yourself,” said Reeths-Puffer head coach Kyle Jewett. “Right now, you just feel like you shot yourself in the foot on a lot of opportunities.”

Reeths-Puffer's No. 21 Dereko Riley tries to get around the corner against Zeeland

Reeths-Puffer’s No. 21 Dereko Riley tries to get around the corner against Zeeland. Photo/Joe Lane

Midway through the third quarter, Reeths-Puffer quarterback Jalen Cooley connected with brother Jordan Cooley for a 12-yard score. The point after was again no good and the Rockets trailed 13-12.

The tempo of the game then picked up big time.

After a 63-yard touchdown pass from Pohanka to Khylin Barton put the Chix up 20-12, Riley returned the kickoff  to the 45-yard line.

R-P running back DeAngelo Williams was stripped of the ball at the line of scrimmage, and Barton picked it up and rumbled 45 yards to the end zone to give the Chix a 27-12 lead with 3:09 remaining in the third quarter.

The ensuing kickoff was returned for a touchdown by Jordan Cooley and just like that, after a successful two-point conversion, the Rockets were back in the game 27-20.

Third-quarter scoring was completed when Zeeland running back Corey Westra scampered 45 yards to put the Chix up 33-20.

“They were exactly who we thought they’d be,” said Jewett. “They’re a darn good football team. They’ve had a heck of a schedule the first four weeks. We knew they weren’t a real 0-4 team. I expect them to have a good rest of the season. We just didn’t execute well enough.”

RP's No. 10 Austin Malotke takes helps on the take down with Nathan McCrary. Photo/Joe Lane

RP’s No. 10 Austin Malotke takes helps on the take down with Nathan McCrary. Photo/Joe Lane

The fourth quarter saw the Rockets’ passing game shine as Jalen Cooley connected with wideout DeAndre Oakes-Owens for a 31-yard touchdown to make it a one possession game, 33-27.

Again however, the Rockets’ defense couldn’t stop the potent Zeeland East offense as it marched down the field for an eight-play, 73-yard drive that was capped with a Pohanka touchdown run of 11 yards. After a failed two- point conversion, The Chix led 39-27.

The Rockets wouldn’t throw in the towel in front of a large homecoming crowd. They stormed down the field and with just 1:03 remaining in the fourth quarter, Jalen Cooley hooked up with Oakes-Owens again to tighten the gap, 39-34.

Unfortunately, the onside kick attempt failed and time ran out on the comeback as the Chix broke into the win column for the first time this season.

Riley led Reeths-Puffer with 104 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown while Westra paced the Chix with 190 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown.

RP quarterback Jalen Cooley gets taken down by Zeeland Easts Mitch Zeerip. Photo/Joe Lane

RP quarterback Jalen Cooley gets taken down by Zeeland Easts Mitch Zeerip. Photo/Joe Lane

Next week, Reeths-Puffer (2-3, 0-1) travels to Grand Rapids to face the winless Union Red Hawks (0-5, 0-1) in an OK Black contest.

“The biggest thing for our kids, is being able to face this adversity and continue to prepare the right way,” explained Jewett. “From here on out, we need to win games to make the playoffs.”

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