By Dave Tomczak

NORTH MUSKEGON – North Muskegon’s offense did a lot with a little in its season opener on Friday.

The host Norse ran only 21 plays on the night, but managed to total 330 yards and roll past Hesperia 41-6 in non-conference action.

After the Panthers opened the game with a 3-and-out, North Muskegon’s TJ McKenzie returned a punt 35-yards to the Hesperia 16-yard line.

Then the rout began.

North Muskegon’s first play from scrimmage resulted in Chandler Edwards sprinting around the right end for a 16-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead just 2:30 into the game.

After Hesperia punted again, North Muskegon ran one play on offense and lost a fumble. But the Panthers didn’t take advantage, once again going three-and-out.

On the ensuing drive, Edwards got around the edge on the Hesperia defense again and streaked 65 yards for another score, giving the Norse a 13-0 lead with 2:35 left in the opening quarter.

North Muskegon’s TJ McKenzie finds open field on the rush. Photo/Leo Valdez

“We’re pretty explosive,” NM coach Larry Witham said. “We have some kids that, anytime they touch the ball, are a threat to go the distance. It puts a lot of pressure on defenses.”

Hesperia’s defense stopped the Norse on their next offensive possession, when NM tried three passing plays. But the next time his team had the ball, Witham went back to what was working.

First Edwards ripped off a 55-yard carry. On the following play, Stephan Smith scored on a 25-yard run, giving the hosts a 20-0 lead with 5:43 left in the half.

Edwards headed to the locker room with three carries for 136 yards and two scores.

Edwards kept the rout going by taking the second-half kickoff and returning it 70 yards for a touchdown. Suddenly it was 27-0 North Muskegon just seven seconds in.

Edwards added a three-yard touchdown run less than four minutes into the third quarter, making the score 34-0.

“We were not looking past this game to next week (against Oakridge),” Edwards said. “Last year it was a close game (against Hesperia), so we came into this game with the mindset that we had to go 1-0 and take care of Hesperia first.”

Hesperia eventually put together a 12-play drive that resulted in a one-yard touchdown run by quarterback Logan Balkema early in the fourth, making the score 34-6.

The Norse got their final score on a one-yard touchdown pass from Mack Young to Jesse Cooke with 9:24 left in the game.

North Muskegon had 230 rushing yards on 11 carries, an average of 20.9 yards per carry. Edwards finished with four carries for 139 yards and Young was 6-of-10 passing for 100 yards.

Hesperia finished with 47 carries for 130 yards on the ground, and 155 total yards. Balkema led the Panthers with 18 carries for 63 yards and finished 4-of-9 passing for 25 yards.