By Nate Thompson

GRAND HAVEN – Hudsonville might as well have left a lump of coal on the turf at Grand Haven’s Buccaneer Stadium on Friday evening.

Grand Haven entered the game with a feel-good 2-0 start to the season, but was humbled with a 41-0 loss to the Eagles in the O-K Red Conference opener for both schools.

The Eagles, under first-year head coach Brent Sandee, improved to 3-0 overall, while the Bucs slipped to 2-1.

“I think our kids were a little bit shocked,” admitted Grand Haven head coach Joe Nelson. “The level of play they faced was obviously a lot different. It was faster, a lot harder and a lot tougher. We tried to simulate (Hudsonville) in practice, but our kids didn’t respond the way we wanted. Hudsonville was just excellent tonight.”

Grand Haven’s No. 14 Collin Takes attempts a pass as Taylor Inthisane holds his spot on the line. Photo/Jason Goorman

Nelson said the Eagles definitely elevated their play from their previous two victories over Grand Ledge and Holt, with their passing game being one of the biggest surprises.

Even the Eagles’ quarterback’s play was somewhat unexpected, as sophomore Brennan Hayes – who was called up to varsity just two weeks ago – performed like a proven veteran.

Hayes tossed a pair of touchdown passes in the first half, on strikes of 12 and 20 yards, to receivers Josh Meza and Brayden Vredeveld.

Hayes finished the contest 7-of-9 through the air for 90 yards and showed poise well beyond his years.

“We put him in the second quarter last week, and he played well,” Sandee said. “Our starter was injured in Week 1 and we brought (Hayes) up after that. He’s picked things up pretty quickly.”

Grand Haven had opportunities to put points on the board, but the Bucs’ offense routinely stalled against a stout Eagles’ defensive line that Sandee said is senior-dominated.

Down 13-0 early in the second quarter, Grand Haven’s Owen Krizan broke free for a 54-yard run to put the Bucs in the red zone. But a false start and three short runs forced Grand Haven into a field goal attempt, which was missed wide left.

Owen Krizan looks back at the Hudsonville defender after he breaks off Grand Haven’s longest run of the night. Photo/Jason Goorman

Hudsonville responded with another scoring drive, capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by junior Bryce Ouding, giving the Eagles a 20-0 advantage.

Grand Haven quickly went three-and-out, but Hayes had the ball slip out of his hands on a rollout during the next series and the Bucs’ Bronson Jewell recovered the fumble on the Eagles’ 23 with 2:23 left in the half.

But again, the Bucs’ offense fizzled, gaining just two yards in four plays.

Nelson felt his team could still put up a fight to start the second half, but the Eagles quickly squashed that hope.

Hudsonville running back Mason Piper scored on a zig-zagging 20-yard run with 6:06 in the third, and a 35-yard interception return by Hudsonville’s Jordan Wenzel on the Bucs’ next drive put the score well out of reach at 34-0.

Hudsonville outgained Grand Haven, 353-124. Piper led the Eagles with 19 carries for 172 yards. Owen Krizan had 70 yards on 10 carries for the Bucs, but Connor Worthington was held to just 22 yards. Grand Haven’s passing game also struggled, going 1-for-11 for six yards during the contest.

Junior Austin Broemer led the Bucs with nine tackles, while Worthington had a sack and five tackles.