By Dave Hart
Grand Haven finished the deal after the long delay with a 24-0 win over Reeths-Puffer at Buccaneer Stadium on Thursday night.
The Buccaneers, who shut down Reeths-Puffer 27-0 in last season’s opener, has now opened with a win over the Rockets in three of the last four years.
“Our focus has been Reeths-Puffer,” said Grand Haven coach Joe Nelson. “We needed to get this one first and do this one game at a time. But it feels good to have a victory.”
Both teams were held scoreless in the opening quarter, with Grand Haven throwing an interception inside the red zone, Reeths-Puffer turning the ball over on downs on the Grand Haven 35, and a punt by the Buccaneers.
Grand Haven finally opened the scoring with 6:48 left in the second quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Alex Kapala.
The Rockets stalled on their next possession, which resulted in a punt attempt that fell apart on a fumbled snap, giving Grand Haven excellent field position at the Reeths-Puffer 32-yard line.
The Buccaneers took advantage of the field position by nailing a 26-yard field goal by Teague Wilson to take a 9-0 lead at the half.
Reeths-Puffer opened the second half with the ball, but Grand Haven’s Owen Krizan picked off a Rocket pass and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown, giving the Bucs a 15-0 lead.
“We needed to keep the momentum on our side,” said Krizan, a senior. “I saw the ball and the end zone and it was a good feeling, and I am glad I had my teammates with me to celebrate.”
The Buccaneers added a two-point conversion to take a 17-0 lead with 11:06 left in the third quarter.
Both teams struggled to move the ball on their next couple possessions, resulting in punts.
The score remained 17-0 Grand Haven until early in the fourth quarter, when lightning delayed the game for over an hour.
The Buccaneers resumed play with the ball 30 yards away from the end zone, and closed out the scoring with a 12-yard touchdown run by Krizan.
Reeths-Puffer drove the ball on its next possession inside the red zone, but stalled with a four-and-out.
The Buccaneers, who will travel to face Traverse City West next week, were led offensively by Krizan with 78 rushing yards on eight carries and one score, while Connor Worthington added 71 yards on the ground on nine attempts.
Reeths-Puffer was paced by quarterback Evan Moskwa, who completed 16 of 27 passes for 173 yards, and Daven Fox, who had with four catches for 73 yards.
The Rockets will look to bounce back next week at home against Grand Rapids South Christian.
“It’s game one and the thing is we made a lot of mental mistakes,” said Reeths-Puffer coach Matt Bird, who was coaching his first game at R-P after a long and successful career at Grand Ledge High School. “Grand Haven had a better scheme tonight, so what we have to do is regroup.”