By Mitchell Boatman

MUSKEGON TWP. — Regardless of what happened in the MHSAA playoffs, this football season was going to be talked about for a long time at Orchard View after a 9-0 regular season.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the great season ended in the first round of the playoffs. Orchard View suffered its first loss of the year, 35-0 against Sparta, in a Division 4 pre-district game on Friday on its home field.

“Right now I’m just incredibly proud of these guys and the staff,” OV Coach Fred Rademacher said after the game. “All they’ve been through, how hard they’ve worked. I’m proud of the way they played tonight.

“We ran into a heck of a football team and our kids didn’t quit. They played with class, they played hard football, they just came up against a really good football team. It happens.”

Orchard View QB Owen Swanson rushes the ball from the backfield. Photo/Leo Valdez

The loss puts a final chapter on a storybook season for the Cardinals, who finished with a perfect regular season for the first time since 2005 and won the Lakes 8 Conference championship. Rademacher hopes the impact of this season lasts well beyond Friday night.

“Hopefully they understand what it takes to win now,” the first-year coach said. “We got a little taste of success, hopefully they’re hungry for a little bit more. The legacy of this senior class is, hopefully, that they’re the ones that got the program back to where they should be.

“I’m just incredibly proud of them, how hard they worked and what they’ve done and how they’ve performed all year long.”

Sparta got the scoring started on the first drive of the game on a four-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jakel Davis. The extra point made it 7-0 with 8:36 to play in the first quarter.

The Cardinals turned the ball over on downs on their first drive, but caught a break when Sparta missed a 20-yard field goal attempt on the next drive.

The teams traded punts until a one-yard touchdown run by Davis with 4:41 to play in the half. The extra point put the score at 14-0.

After an Orchard View punt, the Spartans drove down the field again, scoring with 12.7 seconds to play in the half on a 15-yard pass from Davis to running back Deondray Thomas. The Spartans led 21-0 at the half.

Orchard View’s No. 29 Maverick Colon and No. 11 Elijah Shears take a break between plays. Photo/Leo Valdez

Sparta scored the lone touchdown of the third quarter on an 11-yard run by Thomas to make it 28-0 with 6:36 to play in the third.

The Spartans added their final score with 8:13 to play in the game on a one-yard dive from Thomas, his third score of the game.

The usually-potent Cardinal rushing attack was held in check. OV had just seven first downs for the game, and just one in the first half.

“(Sparta is) a good, physical, disciplined football team,” Rademacher said. “Good, physical, disciplined teams are hard to run the ball on. We couldn’t really find anything. There’s really no excuses, we just didn’t get the job done.”

Edmari Mitchell led the Cardinals with 61 yards rushing. Alex Andrews added 29 yards.