By John Jarvi
Local Sports Journal

GRAND HAVEN — The Grand Haven Buccaneers football team has found winning can be habit-forming for them.

The host Buccaneers took a low-scoring lead at halftime and came away with a 19-9 non-league football victory over the Reeths-Puffer’s Rockets Friday night.Shoreline football instory art

Rain hampered the Bucs Pride Night activities to honor those individuals and families affected by cancer, but Grand Haven still ran its record to 3-0. It’s the best season start for the Bucs since starting the 2007 and 2009 seasons 4-0.

Still, the Buccaneers played well again overall for first-year head coach Jason Duram.

Grand Haven built a 12-2 halftime lead after a scoreless first quarter and had the lead up to 19-2 before a late Reeths-Puffer touchdown closed the final gap.

Plus, the Buccaneers have now won four of the last five games against the Rockets in a series that dates back to 1968. Reeths-Puffer leads the series 12-7-1, but Grand Haven now has three victories in a row.

Grand Haven's No. 14 Schaefer Thelen prepares to catch the ball from quarterback Levi Overway as RP's Tyler Beckman. Photo/Jason Goorman

Grand Haven’s No. 14 Schaefer Thelen prepares to catch the ball from quarterback Levi Overway as RP’s Tyler Beckman. Photo/Jason Goorman

Grand Haven had the edge for an all-around game this time, too. The Buccaneers scored on a field goal and traded safeties in the second quarter before breaking away thanks to a pass interception.

Outside linebacker Nick Mulcahy picked off the pass on the first play from scrimmage following the Rocket score on a safety, and Mulcahy’s interception set up a one-play drive. Grand Haven scored on a fake-run and then long pass by quarterback Levi Overway to Jacob Kostner on a play covering 38 yards late in the second quarter.

Kostner also kicked an 18-yard field goal and two extra points in the game.

Kyle Jewett, the Reeths-Puffer head coach, said, “The Buccaneers played very well. They deserved to win. They were the better team.

“Offensively we played horrible. We played jittery. Our offense couldn’t get anything going.”

Grand Haven limited R-P to nine first downs, 135 yards rushing and 38 yards passing. The Buccaneers also picked off the one pass and recovered two of four Rocket fumbles.

“I look back at our first game, and we made a lot of errors at times,” Duram said. “I think we were able to make some nice adjustments since then.

“The weather dictated, and our offensive coordinator, Nate Smith, called a great game for the situation. We called a game that was conducive to the weather.”

Retths-Puffer's No. 6 Evan McCrary rushes toward's Grand Haven's No. 30 Joey Zelenka and No. 8 Evan Kaufman. Photo/Jason Goorman

Retths-Puffer’s No. 6 Evan McCrary rushes toward’s Grand Haven’s No. 30 Joey Zelenka and No. 8 Evan Kaufman. Photo/Jason Goorman

Grand Haven rushed for 90 yards and mixed in six pass completions in 10 attempts for another 142 yards. The Buccaneers outgained the Rockets, 232 yards to 173.

Kostner gave Grand Haven a big edge in the kicking game. He averaged 46.2 yards for four punts and added the opening score with his field goal.

Mulcahy, an end, added the last touchdown for Grand Haven by catching a screen pass from Overway over the middle and running 48 yards for the touchdown. The touchdown came late in the third quarter and helped boost Grand Haven’s lead to 19-2.

“Mulcahy has emerged,” said Duram. “He’s always been a huge defensive threat at outside linebacker. He’s very dynamic. He’s really worked hard. When he’s on the field, good things happen.”

Grand Haven had some player reinforcements for the game by getting Overway at quarterback and weak safety Aaron Cummings back from injuries.

Schaefer Thelen rushed 19 times for 52 yards, and Chase Pego had 12 carries for 43 yards for Grand Haven. Kostner had three pass receptions for 56 yards, including the one touchdown.

Matt VanHeest had a part in nine tackles, Joe Sepheshy eight, Thelen seven and Mulcahy five for the Buccaneers.

Evan McCrary carried 14 times for 46 yards and Jalon Cooley 11 times for 33 yards for Reeths-Puffer, now 2-1. DeAngelo Williams had a part in 15 tackles and Sean McWilliams eight for the Rockets.

Grand Haven Interim head coach Jason Duram. Photo/Jason Goorman

Grand Haven Interim head coach Jason Duram. Photo/Jason Goorman

Reeths-Puffer got its only touchdown on a 10-yard run by Dereko Riley with 2:38 left in the game. Williams had recovered a Grand Haven fumble at the Buccaneer 40-yard line to set up the eight-play scoring drive. Reeths-Puffer kicked the extra point after the score for Grand Haven’s final margin of victory.

The on-again, off-again series between the schools started in 1968 when two former players from the 1943 Grand Haven team coached against each other. Both are now dead. Legendary Gale Bolthouse led an unbeaten Rocket team against the Buccaneers who had Don Constant for a coach that year.

Although Grand Haven finished 3-5-1 that season and R-P 8-0-1, the teams battled to a 6-6 tie.

The most recent games had been played in 2003 and 2004 when both teams competed in the then O-K Conference Lakeshore Division. Grand Haven won both games 48-0 in 2003 and 34-20 in 2004.

Grand Haven returns to action Sept. 19 by starting O-K Red Division play with a game at Holland West Ottawa, 2-1 for the season so far. West Ottawa beat Grand Haven 20-14 last season.

Reeths-Puffer will play its second home game of the season the same night by hosting Lowell, now 3-0. The teams did not play last season.