By John Jarvi
Local Sports Journal

GRAND HAVEN — Grand Haven fell short on a 58-yard field goal try as time expired and then the Holland West Ottawa Panthers slipped away with a 20-14 overtime victory in an O-K Conference Red Division football game Friday.

After a scoreless first half, Grand Haven went ahead 7-0 early in the third quarter and then rallied in the closing minutes for a 14-14 regulation tie. The second touchdown came on a 13-yard run by Abe Westerman before a Homecoming crowd and then Ryan Maguire kicked his second of two extra points, tieing the game for the first time at 14-all with 2:13 to play.

The Buccaneers stymied the Panthers on defense and got the ball back with 20 seconds left. A pass from Karl Johnson to Jacob Kostner moved the ball to the West Ottawa 41-yard-line as Kostner ran out of bounds to stop the clock.

With 0.8 seconds left in the game, Grand Haven coach Mike Farley opted for a long field goal and Maguire’s try fell just a couple yards short, dropping under the crossbar.

Farley turned down an opportunity to take the lead earlier when he chose to kick the extra point for the second time.

“No, (that’s what I wanted to do),” Farley said. “We wanted the sure thing, and we were at home.”

In the first overtime, West Ottawa scored on its first play. Quarterback Jared McNitt completed a 10-yard pass to his brother, Caleb McNitt, and the Panthers had a 20-14 lead. A halfback option pass fell incomplete on the conversion attempt, and the score stayed the same.

Grand Haven tried a running play on its overtime play, and after a couple-yard gain, the Buccaneers fumbled, and the Panthers recovered at their own 4-yard-line to end the threat and game.

“The Buccaneers played hard,” Farley said. “The players showed togetherness and resiliency. They gave great effort. Defensively we played very well. Offensively, we were able to run the ball more effectively.”

The finish ruined a strong effort for Grand Haven, now 1-5 overall and 0-2 in the O-K Red.

The Buccaneers stopped the Panthers on downs at the Grand Haven 4-yard-line on the opening series of the game and later at the 15 early in the second quarter.

However, Grand Haven scored quickly in the third quarter. After taking the kickoff back to its 31, the Buccaneers scored in two plays. A 27-yard run by Cody Jonas set up a Karl Johnson to Jacob Kostner scoring play covering 42 yards. Maguire kicked the extra point, and the Buccaneers led 7-0 with only 33 seconds gone in the second half.

West Ottawa finally scored late in the quarter on an 11-yard run by Toni Sok, but the Buccaneers blocked the conversion kick, leaving Grand Haven ahead 7-6.

A 15-yard run by Jared McNitt gave West Ottawa its first lead of the game. McNitt’s run capped a 63-yard drive with the touchdown coming with 4:30 to play. McNitt then passed to Sok on a flare pass to the left side for the two-point conversion and a 14-7 lead.

Westerman’s TD and Maguire’s second PAT tied the game and set up the overtime heroics.

West Ottawa had 322 yards in 69 offensive plays. The Panthers rushed for 107 yards in 39 carries and passed for 215 yards. McNitt completed 17 of his 28 passes for 215 yards, but he was sacked four times by the Buccaneer defense.

Grand Haven had 216 yards rushing in 32 carries and Johnson completed six of 15 passes for 70 yards. Westerman rushed for 121 yards in 13 carries for the Buccaneers.

On defense, Dakota Juarez had 12 unassisted tackles and helped out on seven others for the Buccaneers. He also had four tackles for loss and 1.5 quarterback sacks.  Aaron Cummings added eight unassisted tackles and two assists for Grand Haven, which plays at Hudsonville on Oct. 11.

West Ottawa is now 4-2 overall and 1-1 in the O-K Red standings.