By John Jarvi
Local Sports Journal
GRAND HAVEN — The Grand Haven Buccaneers twice grabbed leads in the second half only to have the Rockford Rams slip away with a 27-21 overtime victory in an O-K Conference Red Division football game Friday night.
Grand Haven, now 3-4 overall and 0-3 in the O-K Red, took leads of 14-7 and 21-14 before Rockford rallied for a tying score each time in a game played on Gene Rothi Field at Buccaneer Stadium.
The Rams finally won the game in the first overtime session. The Rams stopped the Buccaneers on defense and then scored on their first running play from the 10-yard-line on a sweep around right end by Hunter Novak.
Grand Haven had tried for a go-ahead touchdown on a fourth-down play from the one-yard-line on its overtime possession only to have the ball carrier dropped for a two-yard loss.
“We believed we could get it,” said Jason Duram, the Grand Haven coach. “Our belief is to go win the game. Unfortunately they stopped us. We’ve just got to get it in.”
Rockford is now 5-1 for the season and the O-K leader with a 3-0 league mark. The Rams also now lead the all-time series between the teams 21-6. The series dates back to 1914.
“We’ve played much better intensity-wise,” Duram said. “We’ve grinded with everyone.
“We’re on the verge of winning a league game. Our goal now is to win out and hopefully the points (for the playoffs) will fall in our favor.”
After falling behind 7-0 in the second quarter, Grand Haven marched back for a 7-7 halftime tie. Long drives dominated most of the play.
Rockford scored on a drive of 63 yards in 14 plays in the second quarter, while Grand Haven had scoring drives of 91 yards in 12 plays, 80 yards in six plays and 49 yards in 10 plays.
The Rams used long kick returns by Tyler Bradfield to set up one of their other two scores. Bradfield returned a kickoff 74 yards in the third quarter with the Rams scoring eight plays later. Quinn Nordin kicked all three extra points for Rockford and had a possible game-winning field goal from 36 yards out miss to the left with 1:42 left in regulation.
After Grand Haven grabbed a 21-14 lead with 10:48 left, Rockford drove 67 yards in four plays with Brendan McKellar scoring the touchdown on a 40-yard run with 9:34 to play.
Grand Haven’s touchdowns came on runs of 18 yards by Chase Pego, and runs of 48 and two yards by Schaefer Thelen. Jacob Kostner kicked all three extra points for the Buccaneers.
The two teams battled it out offensively. Grand Haven had 15 first downs and rushed for 290 yards in 50 carries. Thelen had 26 carries for 163 yards for the Buccaneers who completed one of three passes. Pego gained 81 yards in 13 carries.
Rockford had 39 rushes for 182 yards and added 42 yards by completing seven of 12 passes with one interception. The Rams picked up 12 first downs and recorded first downs on seven of 13 third-down plays.
Aaron Cummings had 10 solo tackles and one assist and Nick Mulcahy seven solo tackles for Grand Haven.
The Buccaneers will return to O-K Red action Friday by playing at Grandville, now 1-2 in league play.