By John Jarvi
Local Sports Journal
ALLENDALE — Former Muskegon Oakridge athlete Jamie Potts popped into the picture in a big way again Saturday in helping the Grand Valley State University Lakers to a 35-28 victory in a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II football playoff game.
Potts caught four passes as a tight end, including the eventual game-winning score, in helping the Lakers recover from three 14-point deficits in the first half against the West Texas A & M Buffaloes.
Potts came down in the end zone with a 16-yard pass from Laker quarterback Heath Parling to cap a three-touchdown third quarter for GVSU. The score came with 2:49 left in the third quarter, and Joel Schipper kicked the extra point for the last point scored in the game.
The victory puts Potts and GVSU into the Dec. 14 semifinal round. Grand Valley, now 12-2 for the season, will play at Maryville, Mo., against the unbeaten Northwest Missouri Bearcats. The Bearcats, 13-0, advanced to the semifinals by beating St. Cloud State, of Minnesota, 59-21. No game time has been announced as it will be telecast nationally.
Potts ended the game with four catches for 49 yards and one touchdown. He helped GVSU’s first scoring drive of the third quarter after the Lakers trailed 28-14 at halftime. After taking the second-half kickoff, the Lakers drove 71 yards in nine plays for a touchdown. Potts had the second play of the drive when he caught a 16-yard pass from Parling for a first down at the Laker 44-yard line.
The other two receptions for Potts came in the fourth quarter with Grand Valley trying to protect its 35-28 lead. The Lakers started their second drive of the quarter at their own 21-yard-line. GVSU turned the ball over on a fumble at midfield five plays later, but earlier Potts caught passes of minus-2 and 19 yards to pick up a first-down.
The 49 yards on receptions boosted the season total for Potts to 1,149 yards receiving with another 37 rushing for 1,186 all-purpose yards. Potts, an honorable mention tight end selection on the recent All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference team, has a season total of 47 receptions for 822 yards and 10 touchdowns.
West Texas, which finished the season 11-3, dominated the first half of play. The Buffaloes scored touchdowns on their first four possessions. West Texas had 16 first downs at halftime with 14 coming on pass completions.
Quarterback Dustin Vaughan completed 23-of-31 first-half passes for 293 yards for West Texas, which had a 48-21 edge in plays run by halftime. The Buffaloes were successful on nine of 11 third-down plays in the first half before a crowd of 4,296.
The GVSU defense recovered in the third quarter by shutting out West Texas for the rest of the game. The Lakers also intercepted three passes in holding the Buffaloes to 13 completions in 25 tries and 106 yards passing in the second half.
The other semifinal game on the 14th will have West Chester, now 13-1, playing at Lenoir-Rhyne, 12-1, at Hickory, N.C. The winners of the semifinal games will advance to the national championship game set for noon on Dec. 21 at Florence, Ala.
GVSU has won four national football playoff titles since 2004 with the most recent coming in 2006. Northwest Missouri, beat Grand Valley 30-23 in the 2009 championship game after losing in the title game four years in a row.
The victory over West Texas boosted Grand Valley to a 9-0 record at home for the season, including two playoff victories, for Laker coach Matt Mitchell. The three playoff games this season marked the 16th time GVSU has been in the Division II playoff hunt.