Local Sports Journal

GRAND RAPIDS – The Oakridge Eagles served notice Friday night they are going to be hard to stop, be it in the West Michigan Conference or the Division 5 football playoffs, after outlasting a very tough Grand Rapids West Catholic team 31-25.

The Eagles were still smarting from last year’s playoff loss to the Falcons.

“It was a big game for us and it all stems from being beaten in the district finals of the playoffs,” said Eagle head coach Cary Harger. “It made the kids hunger for this one to kind of fix things.”

And fix them they did.

Despite giving up a score to West Catholic in the waning moments of the first half, and trailing 22-19 at the break, Oakridge’s defense stood tall in the second half, limiting the WC offense to just three points.

“Looking back, I didn’t realize we held them to only three points in the second half,” admitted Harger.

Eagle quarterback Austin Wright got the scoring started with a 39-yard TD pass to Dom Greenawalt. The touchdown gave the skill players a confidence boost, said Harger, particularly Wright.

Greenawalt stepped in for All-State running back Dan Shoop, who cramped up during the game.

“Dom is an unbelievably tough 135-pound kid, (maybe) a little more than that,” said Harger. “He’s just a never-say-die kid. He’s going to throw every ounce of weight at you.”

Andy Cory plunged in from 1 yard out, and teammate Travis Russell connected with Mitch Stanitzek from 11 yards away,  to give West the 14-7 lead.

Wright went to the air again to get the Eagles within one, connecting with Greenawalt again from 7 yards out, and then Shoop broke an 80-yard TD run to give Oakridge, after two missed PATs, the 19-14 edge.

Just before the half, however, Russell delivered his second TD pass, this one to Bryce Witham from 6 yards away, to make it 22-19 at halftime.

It was an emotional, hard-hitting game, as Oakridge lost one player to injury and another was kicked out for an altercation during an extra point. The injured player, Alex Torrenga, was later cleared to play next week.

Shoop put the Eagles back on top for good with 26-yard TD run that made it 25-22 with seven minutes left in the third quarter.

Oakridge fumbled a punt return late in the third, but two plays later got it right back. The Eagles proceeded to march down the field, traveling 85 yards in 11 plays, capped by a 26-yard scoring strike from Wright to Jerik Wambaugh to seal the win.

West would add a late field goal, but it wasn’t enough.

Harger said it was his team’s ability to play power football and dominate the line of scrimmage that was the difference in the game.

“It’s great to get a win on their field now,” said Harger. “It feels good to go over there and get a big win.”

The loss doesn’t necessarily take the air out of the Falcons’ playoff pursuit. The squad started 0-3 in 2012 and made it to the Division 5 title game.

Wright finished with 9-for-17 passing with 148 yards. Shoop, the workhorse, carried 22 times for 179 yards and a score. Wambaugh added 16 carries for 117 yards, all in the second half, 40 yards of receiving and a TD.

West’s Russell was 10-for-32 for 222 yards and two TD passes.

Defensively, Oakridge was led by Scott Sittser’s nine tackles, Caleb Cook with seven tackles, Bill Drummond and Greenawalt with six each, and Tony Curry with five stops.

The Eagles travel north next Friday to take on rival Montague in the West Michigan Conference opener for both teams.