HOLTON – The Hesperia Panthers have the been the surprise football team in the area, entering Friday with a 4-0 record.
As much fun as they’ve been having, the Panthers were hungry to regain the “Golden Foortball” that they lost last year to archrival Holton.
They traveled down M-120 to visit the Red Devils on Friday, and came away with a 39-12 win and the trophy that had been missing from their case for a year.
“It’s something that we’ve been thinking about for a long time,” said Hesperia head coach Aaron Sims, whose team can clinch a playoff berth next week against White Cloud. “We’ve been talking about it, we have signs in our weight room about getting it back.
“That was definitely on our to-do list and I think we just checked that off, we’re pretty happy about that.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Hesperia’s Gage Balkema intercepted a pass from Holton quarterback Blake Fialek and the Panthers got possession at their own 17-yard line.
On the very next play, Hesperia junior Brandon Goins rumbled through the line and was off to the races, scoring an 83-yard touchdown. Goins finished with 109 yards rushing and two touchdowns on just four carries.
“The big play killed us,” said Holton head coach Jack Nummerdor, whose team dropped to 2-3. “We’ve got 13 team goals that we focus on every week and that’s number two.
“When you give it up, it hurts a little bit. We preached to them at halftime, the big play is killing us. That’s the thing with the Wing-T, that’s what it’s designed to do is bust one every once in a while, and they’re running it well right now.”
Fialek made up for the interception 10 minutes later with a six-yard touchdown pass to Brent McLaughlin to tie the game at 6-6.
Unfortunately for the Red Devils, Hesperia junior Kade Witte broke loose on the ensuing kickoff and rumbled down the sideline for an 82-yard touchdown to put the Panthers up 14-6 at halftime.
Hesperia struck on another big play midway through the third quarter when Balkema broke free down the right sideline for a 46-yard touchdown run that capped a six play, 84 yard drive.
Hesperia led 21-6 after three quarters.
“We’ve got a lot of good athletes, we come off the ball well at the offensive line and we’ve got guys that can take it the distance on any carry, it’s kind of fun that way,” Sims said. “We’re probably five or six deep in the backfield.”
Goins scored his second touchdown of the night with a 15-yard sprint in the 4th quarter to put the Panthers up 27-6.
Balkema got his second touchdown just 4:32 later with an 18 yard touchdown run that Holton thought they stopped at the five, but Balkema dragged the would-be tacklers into the end zone with him. He finished with 75 yards rushing and two touchdowns on just five carries.
Witte capped the Hesperia scoring with 4:51 to play with a 67-yard sprint down the sideline. He finished with 110 yards rushing on nine carries and two touchdowns.
Holton scored a late touchdown when Fialek found McLaughlin again with a five yard scpring toss.
As a team, Hesperia rushed the ball 37 times for 444 yards. Senior Mark Workman led the team with 150 yards on 13 carries.