By Hunter Hendley
Local Sports Journal
GRAND HAVEN – The road to the state playoffs is looking long and challenging for the Grand Haven football team, following Friday’s heartbreaking 27-24 loss to Hudsonville in O-K Red Conference football action.
Grand Haven dropped to 3-3 overall and 0-2 in league play. The Bucs will likely have to win their remaining three games to qualify for the playoffs.
“The playoffs start early for us,” said Grand Haven Coach Jason Duram, whose team was hurt by 13 penalties for 123 yards. “We’re in the playoffs now.
“We had a great game plan going in and we executed it very well in the first half. We had to keep Hudsonville’s dynamic offense off of the field. We weren’t able to do that in the second half.”
The Bucs started the game off with a well-orchestrated 65-yard scoring drive, which ended when quarterback Levi Overway faked the handoff and darted up the middle 11 yards for the score with 7:31 left in the first quarter.
Hudsonville threatened to score later in the first quarter, but its drive ended when Bucs defensive back Trey Bledsoe picked off a pass near the goal line and returned it to the Grand Haven 12.
Grand Haven kicker Jacob Kostner capped the Bucs’ possession with a 44-yard field goal to give his team a 10-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Hudsonville got on the board in the second quarter when Toth scored from four yards out. The drive was sparked by a 31-yard completion from Mason Opple to wide receiver Cooper Cecchini.
Grand Haven got the ball on an onside kick with 3:33 left in the first half and took possession on its own 46. A few plays later senior Chase Pego scored from 18 yards out, and the Bucs led 17-7 at halftime.
Hudsonville started fighting back on the second play of the third quarter, when Opple found receiver Jared Blum for a 45-yard pass to the Grand Haven 21. Opple finished off the drive with a one-yard touchdown run, narrowing the score to 17-14.
Grand Haven answered with an 80-yard scoring drive to take a 24-14 lead. Overway set up the touchdown with an 11-yard run that left the ball just short of the end zone, then Schaefer Thelen plunged in from two yards out.
But the Eagles narrowed the score to 24-21 in the fourth quarter with a four-yard touchdown by Toth.
A Grand Haven punt late in the game set up Hudsonville’s 80-yard drive for the final score and the win. The drive was kept alive with runs of 15 and 13 yards by Opple and a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Grand Haven.
The Buccaneers could not gain any momentum on their last possession and turned the ball over on downs as the clock wound down.
Thelen led the Buccaneers in rushing with 185 yards. Levi Overway had 92 yards on 11 rushes with a touchdown, and Chase Pego rushed five times for 43 yards. Aaron Cummings led the team with 10 tackles.
Opple totaled 258 yards of offense for the Eagles while Toth finished with 98 yards on 13 carries.