By Cody Liverance
Local Sports Journal

It would have been very easy for the North Muskegon football team to throw in the towel on both its home game against Maple City Glen Lake and their season.

Down 8-0 after one quarter and looking out-matched against the undefeated and state-ranked Lakers, the Norse righted the ship for the final three quarters and escaped with a thrilling 22-14 victory to keep their playoff chances intact.  But in order to get in, the Norse will have to do with a 5-4 record.

The big play for the Norsemen (5-4, 4-3) came early in the fourth quarter.

With the ball at the NM 35 yard line and the score tied at 14, North Muskegon senior quarterback Adrian Anderson heaved the ball downfield and found sophomore Mitch Edick behind the Laker defense.  Edick made the grab, his only reception of the night, and scampered 30 yards into the end zone for a 65-yard completion and the game’s final touchdown.

Anderson found senior Nick Duplissis on the ensuing two-point conversion to round out the night’s scoring.

“It was a broken play,” Anderson said.  “It was an all-go and Mitch was wide open down the field.  I just stepped up and threw it as hard as I could.”

Anderson’s heroics would have been for naught if it was not for the Norse defense stepping up when the game was on the line.  Glen Lake had a fourth and four on the NM 23 when junior Christian Ramirez stopped Laker quarterback Carter Lee in the backfield to force the turnover on downs.

However, the Norse gave the ball right back to Glen Lake after a three-and-out.  Curtis Bunek returned the punt 28 yards to set up the Lakers at the NM 40 with 1:39 left in the game.  On the first play of the drive, Lee was hit as he tried to pitch the ball on an option play and fumbled.  Senior Adam Edick recovered the ball for the Norse to seal the victory.

“We came out a little flat, for some reason,” North Muskegon coach Mike Belmonte said.  “We made a few changes defensively and that picked our intensity up and that was the football game right there.”

The Norsemen definitely took advantage of many Laker miscues throughout the night.  Four lost fumbles and 11 penalties ultimately cost the visitors their chance at finishing the regular season undefeated.

“They shot themselves in the foot,” Belmonte said.  “But we’ll take it any way we can get it.”

North Muskegon made the score 8-6 with 9:50 left in the second quarter on sophomore Logan Waller’s 6-yard touchdown run.  A Duplissis 1-yard run and his subsequent 2-point conversion catch from Anderson gave the Norse a 14-8 lead they carried into the half.

Duplissis finished with 39 yards on 12 carries and that lone touchdown.

Glen Lake responded on its first possession after the break.  Trevor Apsey broke off a 75-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter to tie the score at 14. That’s where it would remain until Anderson’s touchdown pass with 10:08 left in the game.

Anderson finished the game 9-for-15 for 130 yards and that lone touchdown pass.  Waller finished with  33 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown while seniors Jack Gautraud and Eric Vasquez led the defensive effort for NM with nine tackles apiece.

Apsey totaled 116 yards on the ground for Glen Lake before leaving the game in the fourth with an injury that kept him out the rest of the game.  Lee was 4-9 for 33 yards through the air and had 73 yards rushing.

While the Norse are excited to finish the season with a winning record after going 0-9 last year, they are even happier to think about the possibility of making the state tournament.

While they are not guaranteed anything at this point, their strength of schedule, which includes losses to four playoff teams, bodes well for them when it comes to selection time on Sunday.

North Muskegon also may have history on its side. Its last playoff appearance came in 2009 when they finished 5-4, but had enough playoff point to make it.

“Our 5-4 beats a lot of other Division 5 5-4’s so if there are three or four 5-4 teams in, I think we might be able to slide in,” Belmonte said.  “Hopefully we get in for our seniors because they deserve it.”