By Dave Hart

MUSKEGON TOWNSHIP – It took Joey Zelenka and a little luck for Grand Haven to pull out its first win of the season.LSJ Logo incert

The Buccaneers hung on to beat Reeths-Puffer 21-20 on Thursday night, thanks to a late touchdown catch by Zelenka, then two botched extra point attempts by the Rockets that would have tied the game.

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“We wanted to eliminate our mistakes and take advantage of theirs,” said Grand Haven Coach Jason Tester, who was coaching his first game for the Bucs. “I am very happy and proud of these kids. They could have easily turned it in but we challenged them to work hard.”

Zelenka broke open a 14-14 game when he scored the game-winning touchdown with 2:16 remaining the fourth quarter on a 12-yard reception from quarterback Logan Taylor.

Zelenka, a senior, finished with 151 total yards. He rushed for 118 on 18 carries, including a 48-yard touchdown, and had three receptions for 33 yards, including the winning score.

“My line blocked for me,” said Zelenka, a senior. “It was all hard work getting into the end zone during the final scoring drive.”

Zelenka’s late touchdown catch proved to be critical for Grand Haven, because Reeths-Puffer did not give up.

Nate McCrary fielded the ensuing kickoff at his own 1-yard line and raced 89 yards, giving Reeths-Puffer the ball just inside the Grand Haven 10.

Running back Theo Stevenson cut the Rockets’ deficit to 21-20, rushing 10 yards for the score.

Reeths-Puffer's No. 4 Theo Stevenson collides with Grand Haven's No. 44 Ryan Klahorst. Photo/Joe Lane

Reeths-Puffer’s No. 4 Theo Stevenson collides with Grand Haven’s No. 44 Ryan Klahorst. Photo/Joe Lane

Reeths-Puffer lined up to kick the extra point and tie the game, but a bad snap left the ball in the hands of holder Collin Houseman, who scrambled and completed a pass to Tylor Skinner in the end zone, which appeared to give the Rockets a two-point conversion and one-point lead.

But the play was called back due to an ineligible receiver downfield penalty, and the Rockets had to try to kick the extra point again.

The kick was short and wide to the right, preserving Grand Haven’s final margin of victory.

“I didn’t agree with the call (on the apparent two-point catch), but I have to see the play on film,” Reeths-Puffer Coach Kyle Jewett said.

Reeths-Puffer opened the scoring on a two-yard run by McCrary with 1:09 left in the first quarter, and the PAT gave the Rockets a 7-0 lead.

The Buccaneers tied the game 7-7 on two-yard rush by Adam Nelson with 1:45 left in the second quarter.

Grand Haven grabbed a 14-7 lead on the 48-yard touchdown run by Zelenka with 8:58 left in the third quarter. Reeths-Puffer tied the game on a 15-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Blake Ross to Skinner with 53 seconds left in the third.

Bucs runningback No. 8 Logan Taylor rushes under pressure. Photo/Joe Lane

Bucs runningback No. 8 Logan Taylor rushes under pressure. Photo/Joe Lane

The game remained tied at 14-14 until the final two minutes of regulation when the teams scored 18 seconds apart to give the big crowd a thrilling finish.

“In Week 1 it is the team that makes the fewer mistakes that wins the game,” Jewett said. “Both team played very hard and I can’t be more proud of how hard our kids played.”

The Rockets were led on the ground by Stevenson and McCrary with 68 and 54 yards, respectively, while Ross threw for 138 yards on 11-for-13 passing.

Grand Haven quarterback Taylor completed 8 of 11 passes for 74 yards and a touchdown.