By Ron Rop

FRUITPORT – To a man, the Fruitport Trojans knew they could play with the big boys.

On Friday night, before a homecoming crowd, the Trojans did just that and knocked off Grand Rapids West Catholic 28-20.

The Falcons came into the game undefeated and the unanimous No. 1 pick in Division 6 by the Associated Press.

“This was a big game, homecoming, we couldn’t lose that,” Paschal Jolman, Fruitport’s top running back, said. “We knew coming into this game we had to hit them hard and make them crumble.”

How did the Trojans hand the Falcons’ their first loss of the season?

They did it with an explosive offense, a solid defensive effort and plenty of grit. There were a few mistakes along the way, but Coach Nate Smith was still grinning from ear to ear following the game.

“It was a great night,” Smith said. “I’m super excited for our guys, we said it’s about time we put a game together, but we still did not play very well. We had too many turnovers, but the guys believe in each other and played as a team tonight. I’m really, really proud of them.”

That explosiveness on offense was led by twins Collin and Paschal Jolman. Collin is the quarterback and Paschal is the running back. Toss in Cody Nash and Andrew B. Fielstra and you have plenty of offensive options. Collin Jolman rushed 17 times for 116 yards, Paschal Jolman had 19 carries for 100 yards, Nash had six carries for 99 yards and Andrew B. Fielstra ran nine times for 62 yards.

“Those guys have been committed to this program for 4 years,” Smith said. “I think they really believe in wearing that Fruitport on their chest and believe in this community and I think you saw that tonight.”

It wasn’t just the skilled positions that stood out. The guys up front were solid as well.

“I thought our interior line played really, really well,” Smith said. “But, when guys had to step up tonight, it came down to heart for us and our guys showed up.”

Collin Jolman started the scoring with a 37-yard touchdown run. Paschal followed that with a 33-yard touchdown pass and the Trojans led 12-0 in the second quarter.

West Catholic got on the board when quarterback Bernie Varnesdeel hooked up with Carter Perry on a 72-yard pass to cut the margin to 12-7.

That’s the way the opening half ended.

Highly touted running back Tim Kloska scored from 7 yards out to open the second half scoring. The extra point failed, but the Falcons had a slim 13-12 lead. Kloska finished with 20 carries for 122 yards.

Would that put a dent in the Trojans’ momentum?

Not a chance because it took Fruitport slightly more than 1 minute to regain the lead for good.

Nash used his speed to outrun the defense down the right sideline and into the end zone. Paschal Jolman added the 2-pointer and Fruitport led 20-13.

Paschal Jolman added a 4-yard touchdown run with 8:10 left in the fourth quarter then Nash ran in the 2-point conversion. Suddenly, Fruitport was ahead by two scores at 28-13.

A freak play with 4:36 remaining got West Catholic back to within a touchdown. A Collin Jolman pass over the middle bounced off a Trojan receiver and into the arms of Caleb Clinger. His 40-yard return of the interception and Carson Beekman’s extra point made it 28-20 with still plenty of time remaining.

“I’ve never seen a play like that in high school,” Smith said. “Our guy catches it, it bounces straight up in the air to their guy, but we knew we were going to face some adversity and we talked about that.”

How would Fruitport respond?

Andrew B. Fielstra had back-to-back runs of 11 and 12 yards, Paschal Jolman was bottled up in the backfield before springing loose and gaining a first down and the poise of Collin Jolman at quarterback helped the Trojans run out the clock.

“That just what I do,” Paschal said of his key run for a first down. “If it’s third and eight, I’m getting those yards. That’s how it is.”

Andrew B. Fielstra led the Trojan defense with eight tackles. 

Fruitport (5-2) travel to Hamilton next week for an OK-Blue matchup.