By Fred Inglis
LUDINGTON – The Hart Pirates played their first varsity football game in 21 months on Friday.
That alone was an accomplishment, after the Pirates skipped a season of varsity to regroup and rebuild their program.
But the first game back didn’t go so good for Hart, which was dismantled by Ludington 35-0 in a non-league, opening night matchup.
The Orioles scored on the opening drive and never let up. They were led by senior quarterback Jared Collins, who completed 10 of 15 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns.
“It’s always good to open the season with a win,” Collins said. “They had all the hype as the ‘Dream Team’, but I think we showed them up today.”
Collins also rushed for 98 yards and two touchdowns. He worked from the shotgun and executed the option with poise and polish.
“Those 13 seniors allowed us to do a lot of things on the field,” said Orioles head coach Charlie Gunsell. “Hart had a good game plan and were physical, but any time we were in a third down situation we felt we could pick it up.”
Ludington gained 414 yards on offense. Hart was able to move the ball between the 20’s, but committed four costly turnovers and gained just 126 total yards.
The Pirates lost a fumble on their second play from scrimmage, and Ludington converted it into a six- play, 77-yard touchdown drive.
Orioles led 28-0 at halftime. The only score in the second half was by Ludington’s senior defensive back Sam LaDuke, who picked off an ill-advised pass from Hart quarterback Cameron Tanner at the Pirate 27 and raced in for the final touchdown.
“Turnovers you can overcome,” says Hart head coach Rick Witteveen. “You can’t overcome playing your own game. You can’t play undisciplined.”
About 200 Pirates fans traveled to Ludington. They had high hopes for their young team, which posted a 9-0 record a year ago at the junior varsity level.
But only senior running back Brady Tate had any previous varsity experience, and Ludington knew it. The Orioles swarmed him every time he carried the ball. He finished with 33 yards rushing on 14 carries. Tate also grabbed four receptions for 98 yards and recorded an interception on defense.
Hart junior quarterback Cameron Tanner completed his first four passes, but was constantly under attack and finished 4-for-6 through the air for 98 yards and one interception. He was sacked twice.
The play of the game came in the second quarter when Ludington’s Sam LaDuke took the handoff, raced around the left end and galloped 60 yards for the score.
It was a harsh reminder for the Pirates that it’s a giant leap from JV to varsity football.