By Dave Hart

SPRING LAKE – The Spring Lake football squad has certainly turned things around since its winless season in 2017.

The Lakers made the playoffs in both 2018 and 2019 after posting 5-4 records each season.

Steve Ready fights for more yards as Fruitport’s No. 56 Dakota Adkins takes him down. Photo/Kelly Gates

This year Spring Lake wrapped up the regular season two games over the .500 mark after posting an impressive 54-22 victory over rival Fruitport on Friday, winning the “Battle of the Bayou” for the third straight year.

The Lakers are now 4-2 on the season, and will wait to find out this weekend who they will play in the opening round of districts.

“It’s exciting,” said Spring Lake coach Dan Start about winning the paddle. “This is such a great rivalry that is so much fun. You just throw records out and just play the game.

“It’s one of those things where this year’s seniors came in as freshmen when the program was different. They have been the ones who have helped rebuild it.”

Fruitport jumped out to a lead after forcing Spring Lake to go three-and-out on its first drive.

The Trojans scored on a 10-play drive that ended with a 26-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Gavin Reames to Cody Nash. The two-point conversion try failed.

The Trojans led 6-0 after the first quarter.

The Lakers took a 7-6 lead on the first play of the second quarter, scoring on a five-yard touchdown run by Alex Lee.

Fruitport’s No. 40 Brock Dornbos and Spring Lake’s No. 64 Garrett Hook dive for a loose ball. Photo/Kelly Gates

Spring Lake’s defense kept the Trojans from scoring on their next two drives, then the Lakers increased their lead to 13-6 with 2:39 left in the second quarter.

Quarterback Zach Mitchell scored on a one-yard run, and the point after was no good.

The Lakers forced Fruitport to punt on its next possession, then blocked the kick, and the ball was recovered by Hunter Throop at the 25-yard line.

Spring Lake scored two plays later with an 11-yard run by Mitchell to increase its advantage to 20-6 with 1:24 left in the first half.

The Trojans responded just before halftime, scoring on a 57-yard, six play drive that ended with a five-yard touchdown run by Reames.

The Lakers led at halftime by a 20-14 margin.

The flood gates opened during the third quarter when Spring Lake scored 28 unanswered points to expand its lead to 48-14 heading into the fourth.

It started with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Mitchell to Derrick Paggeot with 8:24 left in the third quarter, after Spring Lake recovered a fumble on the kickoff.

The Lakers followed up with a 17-yard TD pass from Mitchell to Paggeot with 2:03 left in the third to take a 33-14 lead.

Fruitport fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Spring Lake’s Sam Sheridan scooped up the ball and ran 30 yards for a TD, extending the lead to 41-14.

Spring Lake capped its outburst with 20 seconds left in the third quarter with a one-yard TD run by Christian Folkert.

Paschal Jolman gets past a Spring Lake defender. Photo/Kelly Gates

Spring Lake’s Andrew Fielstra scored from two yards out on the first play of the fourth quarter, then Mitchell scored from a yard out for Spring Lake with 9:04 left.

“We didn’t make too many adjustments, it was more just executing,” said Start. “We faced some adversity in the first half when they gave us a hell of a punch right out the gate, then we played a great second half and took advantage of some turnovers.”

Spring Lake was paced offensively by Mitchell, who was 5-for-12 passing for 123 yards and two touchdowns. Paggeot caught three passes for 84 yards and two scores.

The Lakers were led on the ground by Steve Ready with 73 yards on 26 carries while Folkert added 68 yards on 10 rushes.

Dylan Lisman paced the Spring Lake defense with five tackles and an interception, while Jackson Core and Brody Lightfoot each had an interception.

“We can’t have turnovers,” said Fruitport coach Nate Smith, whose 2-4 team gave up three interceptions and one fumble. “I don’t want to take anything away from them, but we made a lot of mistakes tonight.”

The Trojans were led by Reames, who had 194 yards on 8-for-25 passing. Camden Farrell caught four passes for 105 yards while Aiden Vela had four receptions and 63 yards.