By David Tomczak
Local Sports Journal

REETHS-PUFFER – On a day filled with activities to celebrate the “Rocket City Games,” the Reeths-Puffer football team saved the best for last.

The Rockets controlled the ground game, the clock, and the nonconference season opener against Fruitport, earning a 26-7 win Thursday.

Starting at 9 a.m., the “Rocket City Games” kicked off with a morning mud run and included Reeths-Puffer hosting varsity events in volleyball, cross country, tennis, soccer, and featured skydivers and fireworks after the game.

But the main event went down at 7:30 p.m. And it didn’t disappoint.

The Rockets began the game with two drives lasting over six minutes apiece. After the opening drive ended in a punt, Puffer cashed in on the second one early in the second quarter, as running back Dereko Riley burst in from 2-yards out for a 7-0 lead.

Fruitport’s offense, which only ran 11 plays in the first half, couldn’t string enough plays together to keep the Rockets off the field. With time running down in the first half, R-P struck again.

Once again Riley would find paydirt, hauling in a 4-yard TD pass from Garrett Blanshine, for a 13-0 halftime lead.

“We handled the ball and controlled the clock,” Puffer coach Kyle Jewett said. “We knew that going in. I’m pretty proud of the kids, (they) never let up. Defensively we were able to stop them right away and get a score early. Then we could control the clock, that plays right into our hands.”

The third quarter proved to be more of the same, as the two teams exchanged field position and the Rockets chewing up clock.

As time ticked away, the Trojans finally caught a break, as a broken play with one second left in the quarter resulted in quarterback Luc Kostamo scrambling for 67 yards to the Puffer 12.

Kostamo would dive in from a yard out a few plays later and the Trojans were within six, 13-7 early in the fourth. But that would be the highlight of Fruitport’s night.

“We have the ability to strike quickly and I felt, even deep in the second half we had a chance,” Trojans coach Greg Vargas said. “But turnovers and mistakes hurt us. We had opportunities but sometimes it just doesn’t go the way you want.”

Reeths-Puffer would put the game away with two scores in the fourth quarter, the first coming on from Julian Munday.

The Rockets’ senior back took the ball up the middle, dragged a load of defenders with him before escaping the pack of Trojans tacklers, and breaking loose for a 40-yard strike and a 20-7 lead.

Riley would add the finishing touches, and his third score of the night, on a 5-yard run late.

“(Our) running game is nothing fancy,” Jewett said. “We’re just coming right at you. (And) defensively we thought we could handle their running game, we just didn’t want to give up the big play, we preached that all week.”

The Rockets rushing game was in midseason form, breaking loose for 340 of the teams 371 yards. Munday lead the way with 108 yards on 21 carries, Riley added 79 yards on 19 carries and Blanshine had 76 yards on 13 carries.

Fruitport finished with 161 total yards, 115 on the ground, and three turnovers. They were led by Kostamo’s six carries for 50 yards.

The victory was just icing on the cake for the fans who spent an entire day celebrating “Rocket City.”

“Everybody expected a lot out of us (tonight),” Riley said as fireworks filled the skies above Rocket Stadium. “And we just had to come out and do what we do.”

Reeths-Puffer 26, Fruitport 7
Fruitport 0 – 0 – 0 – 7 — 7
Reeths-Puffer 0 – 13 – 0 – 13 — 26

R – Dereko Riley 2 run (Conrad Foss kick)
R – Riley 4 pass from Garrett Blanshine (run failed)
F – Luc Kostamo 1 run (Collin Cribley kick)
R – Julian Munday 30 run (Foss kick)
R – Riley 5 run (pass failed)

Reeths-Puffer leaders
Rushing – Julian Munday 21-108; Dereko Riley 19-79; Garrett Blanshine 13-76.

Fruitport leaders
Rushing – Luc Kostamo 6-50; Nathan Kriger 4-34.
Tackles – Kriger 21; Colin Butler 19; MItchell Reyes 18.