By Steve Gunn
Those hopes were fueled by frustration following a long stretch of not-so-great seasons.
Fruitport, once one of the area’s better football programs, has not had a winning season since 2015, or made the state playoffs since 2014.
Last year the Trojans were 4-5, but lost one game by only one point, and gave eventual state champion Mona Shores a battle in the final week of the season.
With six starters back on offense this year, the thought was that the team would put a lot of points on the board, and win its share of games. Adding to the optimism was the Trojans’ transfer to the O-K Blue conference, where they will no longer have to play the likes of Mona Shores or Muskegon.
But the season started with a thud in Week 1 when the Trojans lost 46-12 to Hamilton. The trouble continued through the first quarter of last Friday’s game against Holland Christian, when the score remained 0-0.
But Fruitport’s offense finally started clicking in the second quarter, and the Trojans went on to post a decisive 44-15 conference victory.
The Trojans will try to keep their newfound momentum going on Friday at home against Allendale (2-0), one of the traditionally stronger programs in the O-K Blue. LocalSportsJournal.com will be on hand to cover the game.
“I think the guys just started to relax a little bit last week, and we played looser, faster and with more cohesion,” said Fruitport head coach Nate Smith. “A lot of guys were getting their first varsity experience in Week 1, and there were some jitters.”
One sparkplug for the sudden offensive outburst last week was junior quarterback Gavin Reames, who splits time at the position with senior Tyler Zimmerman.
Zimmerman played the first quarter, then Reames came in and the points started flowing. He ended up completing 10 of 17 passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns.
Coach Smith said both QBs bring a lot to the table, and Reames was the guy with the hot hand on Friday.
“We run two different types of sets, with different personnel groupings, on offense,” Smith said. ”Zimm leads one type of set and Reames the other. Zimmerman is more of a prototype pocket passer, while Gavin is incredibly athletic. They are both great leaders, and they root for each other. They both understand what each other brings to the table.
“Last week Reames was very efficient. He ran the option game very well and made wise decisions with the ball. He played very well.”
Reames said he simply played a lot better than the previous week, when he was disappointed with his performance.
“My leadership against Hamilton was very poor, and our leadership as a whole improved last Friday,” said Reames, who was called up to varsity as a sophomore last year and gained experience at quarterback. “We did really good on the line, the blocking on the perimeter was really good, and we executed really well.”
Another offensive star last Friday was junior wide receiver Camden Farrell, who had a great overall game, rushing four times for 102 yards and catching four passes for 35 yards. The highlight of his night was his 57-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
“I just basically got the right blocks, and (Reames) was throwing the ball real good,” said Farrell, who starts at wide receiver, but moves around to play various other positions.
Farrell said the Trojans were motivated by many predictions of another Fruitport loss. That was particularly true for LocalSportsJournal.com, whose seven writers all picked Holland Christian to win.
“We just liked proving the haters wrong,” Farrell said with a smile.
Coach Smith said Farrell, who was also called up to varsity last year as a sophomore, is reaping the benefits of a lot of hard work.
“He has made the most of his opportunities,” Smith said. “He has always had that big play ability. Last year he scored a few big touchdowns for us. He is gaining confidence, and he’s put in a lot of work and watched a lot of film.”
Reames and Farrell said they knew the Week 1 loss was not an indication of the type of season they would have. Despite the ugly score, they said the team never lost confidence.
“We definitely played together more (against Holland Christian),” Farrell said. “The first week everybody was a little timid, but last week we had a totally different mindset and the ending was good.”
The two juniors also insist that the Trojans won’t be intimidated by Allendale, despite the Falcon’s success in recent seasons, and their strong start this year.
Allendale has qualified for the state playoffs three out of the past four years, and has beaten Holland Christian (44-23) and Hamilton (24-14) so far this season.
“It’s definitely going to be a challenge, but if we keep having good practices this week, I think it’s going to be a dog fight,” Reames said.