By Mark Lewis
Local Sports Journal
GRAND HAVEN – It was an evening filled with passion, both on and off the field, as host Grand Haven took on Mona Shores Friday night in the final nonleague contest for both squads.
While the visiting Sailors outlasted the Bucs 21-14 on the gridiron, after the game, both teams honored those affected by cancer with a jersey trading ceremony in the south end zone.
The Grand Haven players wore purple jerseys during the contest, each emblazoned with the name of someone who has battled cancer. Each player slipped off their respective jerseys and gave them to the person they were honoring.
The players from Mona Shores stood behind their Grand Haven counterparts, cheering and taking in the festivities.
It was especially bittersweet for Grand Haven coach Mike Farley, who felt a sort of obligation to win the contest for everyone battling cancer.
“Tonight, the name on the back (of the jersey) was just as important as the name on the front,” said Farley. “We played for those people, for our community and for our school. That’s why I think it was such disappointment tonight, because a lot of people were counting on us to win this game.”
Donations taken during the game totaled $1,190, a portion of which will go to Bluebird Cancer Retreats, the American Cancer Society and to a wellness fund to support local families battling cancer.
For Mona Shores head coach Matt Koziak, the win comes after last week’s last-minute loss to Caledonia.
“We said we wanted to go into the league season 4-0 or 3-1, so we’re where we want to be,” said Koziak. “Obviously, we wanted to be 4-0, but now we’re not thinking about that. We’re looking toward (Grand Rapids) Union and Muskegon in two weeks.”
The Sailors looked like the dominant squad out of the gate, putting together a six-play, 52-yard drive on their first possession. Receiver Chris Bedford capped the drive with a TD catch, a 5-yard screen pass from sophomore quarterback Tyree Jackson, to make it, following kicker Jared Karnitz’s extra-point, 7-0.
Shores fumbled on its next possession, at the Sailor 8, and Bucs quickly capitalized. Buc junior Abe Westerman took a delayed handoff and ran it up the middle for the score.
Ryan Maguire added the extra-point to tie it at 7-all.
Mona Shores attempted a response, putting together an 11-play drive which took the Sailors down to the Buc 15. Karnitz’s 32-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
Midway through the second quarter, the Sailors took the lead for good, as Darnell Longmire capped a 67-yard drive with an 1-yard blast to make it 14-7.
In the third quarter, Mona Shores went up by two scores when Jackson connected with senior back from 9 yards out to make it 21-7.
A 90-yard return by Buc Isaak Newhouse on the ensuing kickoff was nullified by an illegal block penalty.
Early in the fourth quarter, the hosts did scratch closer, completing a 66-yard drive with a 33-yard TD pass from senior signal caller Michael Penland to Westerman to make it 21-14.
But, the Bucs wouldn’t threaten again, primarily due to the play of junior Asantay Brown, who not only pulled in seven catches for 112 yards, but also picked off Penland three times, including in the final minutes to stall a Buc comeback attempt.
After the game, Brown was understated about his performance.
“I was just reading my keys that our coaches were telling us during the week to watch and reacting to the ball while keeping an eye on the receiver,” said Brown. “This was a big win for us. Grand Haven is a good team.”
Brown also said he was happy his team was able to overcome the mistakes that doomed his team a week ago.
The Mona Shores’ offense, which outgained the Bucs 446-224, was led by Darnell Longmire, who rushed for 156 yards on 32 carries. The Bucs’ rushing attack was headed by Westerman’s 64 yards on nine carries.
Jackson was brilliant with his arm, going 18-for-33 for 254 yards a two scores and no passing turnovers. Penland finished with 13-for-34 passing for 124 yards, one TD and the aforementioned three picks.
Along with Brown’s production, teammate Marquon Sargent had three catches for 74 yards, with Bradford adding seven catches for 59 yards and a score.
Westerman led the Bucs with two catches or 41 yards and a score, with teammate Jeff Olson adding five catches for 23 yards.
Defensively, Grand Haven’s Newhouse led the way with 12 tackles, while Sargent led the Sailors with eight stops. Westerman and Aaron Gordon both had seven tackles, with Westerman totaling two sacks in the loss.
Cody Schneider had seven stops for the Sailors, while David Bloom six, and Aleksander Jend had four tackles, including two sacks, in the victory.