By Tom Kendra
Payton Flores, a senior defensive end and the youngest of the five Flores brothers, produced the key play of the game – stripping the ball out of the arms of a Spring Lake running back midway through the third quarter, then racing 68 yards for a touchdown.
That play gave the Trojans a two-touchdown lead, and they kept rolling from there in a convincing 33-6 OK Blue conference victory.
“My teammates were holding him up and I just stripped the ball and took off running,” explained Flores, whose father, Mario Flores, is a Fruitport assistant coach. “That was my first high school touchdown, ever. And, yes, it feels really good.”
Fruitport (4-2) snapped a four-game losing streak to Spring Lake and raised the coveted “Wooden Oar” high in front of a fired-up student section after the game.
It was anyone’s game at halftime, with Fruitport holding a slim 14-6 lead after two quarters that were marred by penalties.
The Trojans dominated the second half with a 19-0 scoring edge but, ironically, it was the defense which keyed the victory.
The narrative on Fruitport after the first four weeks of the season was a team with a great offense, which couldn’t stop anybody. That has changed over the past two weeks, as the defense has stepped up big-time, first in an upset win over Coopersville and then in a dominating performance on Friday, holding Spring Lake to just six points.
The Trojans’ defense made the hosts one-dimensional, completely swarming Lakers’ sophomore quarterback Reid Grimmer every time he dropped back to pass. Fruitport’s defensive front of tackles Ricky Wiggins and Kaiden Bell and ends Flores and Nash Cooper were stout, and the linebacker trio of Brock Dornbos, Andrew Fielstra and Daiton Campbell repeatedly got home on blitzes.
After Flores’ game-changing fumble return stunned the huge throng at Grabinski Field, Fruitport added scores on senior Paschal Jolman’s 17-yard touchdown pass from his twin brother, Collin Jolman, and a 7-yard run by Fielstra.
“We were playing too slow in the first half,” said Jolman, who also had a 26-yard TD reception in the second quarter. “We talked at halftime about kicking it into the next gear. Once we get going, there’s no stopping us.”
Paschal Jolman, who is 2 minutes older than Collin, finished with 13 carries for 103 yards, to go over 1,000 yards on the season. He now has 91 carries for 1,056 yards and 11 TDs in just six games.
He did his most serious damage on Friday, however, as a receiver out of the backfield, with four catches for 90 yards and two TDs.
Collin Jolman completed 9-of-16 passes for 143 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. He rushed 11 times for 56 yards, while senior halfback Cody Nash carried seven times for 55 yards, including a 10-yard TD run in the first quarter.
Spring Lake senior Alex Lee, a bruising fullback, led his team with 13 carries for 77 yards. Grimmer completed 3-of-11 passes for 73 yards, highlighted by a 37-yard touchdown pass to senior Derrick Paggeot in the second quarter.
Linebacker Jack Duggins and defensive lineman Noah VanDreumel each made four tackles for the Lakers, while senior defensive back Gerrit Lyyski had an interception.
Fruitport, which has scored at least 30 points in every game this season, hosts unbeaten Grand Rapids West Catholic next week in a key OK Blue game. Spring Lake (1-5) hosts Hamilton.