By John Jarvi
Local Sports Journal

GRAND HAVEN — The run of football losses by the Muskegon Big Reds to the Grand Haven Buccaneers ended Friday, Aug. 30, when the visiting Big Reds rolled to a 41-7 non-league victory.

Grand Haven showed flashes on offense, but the Buccaneers never found a way to control the tempo of the game enough.

“You’ve got to put drives together and protect the clock,” Mike Farley, the Grand Haven coach said. “The Big Reds are a good football team. There is a reason why they played for a state football playoff championship last year.”

Farley and the Buccaneers had hopes of doing more on offense, but they ended the first half down 21-0 and had only three first downs on offense at halftime.

Several bad breaks also frustrated Grand Haven. On its opening drive of the game, Muskegon moved to the Grand Haven 20, and the Buccaneers had quarterback Deshaun Thrower all but sacked on a third-down-and-nine yards to go play at the Buccaneer 20.

Grand Haven defenders helped force a fumble, but Muskegon running back Caleb Washington picked the ball up and ran 20 yards around the right end for a touchdown. A high punt snap on a play deep in Buccaneer territory led to another touchdown midway through the second quarter. Grand Haven recovered the fumble, but Muskegon got the ball on downs at the Buccaneer 3 and one play later, scored on a Thrower run.

The near-misses continued in the second half. Thrower broke another sack attempt early in the third quarter and ran for a 58-yard touchdown. Add a pass interception return for a tourchdonw of 40 yards by Muskegon’s John Hall, and the Big Reds coasted to victory after building up a 34-0 advantage.

For Farley, the loss was his first in four tries against Muskegon. He had won in 2009, 2010 and 2011 before Coach Shane Fairfield’s Big Reds ended the slide. Muskegon leads the all-time series between the schools by a 61-17-5 margin in a rivalry that dates back to 1895.

“The Big Reds are strong up front, and they had a great game plan,” Farley said.

Farley’s pre-season goal had been improved play on offense for the season. Grand Haven struggled on offense through much of the middle part of the game. The Buccaneers used two quarterbacks in the game and wound up rushing for 11 yards in 23 carries and completing 9 of 20 passes for 145 yards.

“Both of our quarterbacks have to improve,” Farley said. “We’ve to be able to catch the football, too. We had a couple drops tonight.”

Grand Haven, now 0-1 will continue its tough non-league run Sept. 6 when it hosts East Lansing High School (1-0). East Lansing beat Haslett 28-7 in the season opener for both teams Thursday night.

Muskegon, meanwhile, will travel to Grand Rapids to play the GR Christian Eagles (1-0).

For Grand Haven, Chase Pego rushed seven times for 17 yards while punter Ford Butler averaged 34.6 yards for seven punts. Butler had a long punt of 61 yards late in the first quarter.