After trading blows with Reeths-Puffer in the first half of their season opener at Gene Rothi Stadium, Grand Haven couldn’t answer with a counterstrike of their own late in the contest.
Photos: Grand Haven battles Reeths-Puffer
The Rockets outscored the Buccaneers 21-0 in the second half and flew out of Grand Haven with a 28-10 non-conference win to open the 2017 season.
The key to the win for Reeths-Puffer was the standout play of their defensive unit.
The Rockets’ defense shut down the Buccaneer rushing attack in the second half, and held Grand Haven to only 96 yards on 39 carries as a team.
The lack of a ground game, combined with two fourth-quarter turnovers and nine penalties for 180 yards, made any comeback attempt almost impossible for a team that is still trying to establish an identity early on in the season.
“The bottom line is that we didn’t take care of the football when we needed to, and that got us into a lot of trouble,” said first-year Grand Haven head coach Joe Nelson. Then, the clock started to become a factor and that got us out of what we like to do and what we are good at, and forced our hand a little bit.
“Our coaches did a nice job of recognizing what they were doing differently on defense and our kids did a pretty good job of adjusting, but we just made too many fundamental mistakes. We had little things like kids not hitting the right spot, and that forced us to press a little more than we should.”
Nelson thought the second-half deficit was due in large part to the team forcing the issue.
“We talked before the game about doing what we do and doing it well, and we got out of our element and started playing too fast,” he added. “And Reeths-Puffer did a nice job, and they came at us hard today.”
Senior quarterback Adam Nelson finished 9-of-17 passing for 86 yards and one touchdown to lead the Buccaneers (0-1), while Kellum Bridgeforth caught three passes for 38 yards and a score.
“Adam did a nice job for his first start at the varsity level as a quarterback,” Coach Nelson continued. “He played a lot of defense, too, so he gave a lot of effort tonight. We’ll look at the film with him, and I’m sure we’ll grow from this. He’s going to be good this year, and he showed a lot of toughness out there. He took some big hits, and kept playing hard and fighting for his team.
“I was happy with how we adjusted to situations we were dealt. We moved some kids around and they came in to the game made plays for us. That will be huge for our team depth moving forward.”
Senior tailback Charlie Young finished with 63 yards on 18 carries to lead a Grand Haven rushing attack that never really got its feet underneath them.
“They did some things on defense that we didn’t originally see on film, and I think that kind of caught us off guard a little bit early on in the game,” said Young. “We had a lot of hype built up around us leading into this game, and I think we came out a little bit too worked up and didn’t execute the gameplan well enough.
“Their backers were filling hard and blitzing a lot, and their defense as a whole played really well, so you have to give them credit for that. At the same time, we’re a better team than what the score shows, and our offense is a lot better than what it did tonight.”
On defense, Logan Naperala recorded five solo tackles, while Bridgeforth added four solo tackles and two assists.
For Reeths-Puffer, sophomore quarterback Evan Moskwa was 9-of-18 for 120 yards and one touchdown passing, and added 71 yards and one touchdown on seven carries, including a 40-yard scamper down the sidelines in the fourth quarter that gave the Rockets a 21-10 lead.
Senior tailback Nicholas Dailey added 27 yards and one score on 10 carries, while sophomore Daven Fox added a 19-yard rushing touchdown, as well. Carter Fulton was the big-play threat for the Rockets, as the junior wideout hauled in five receptions for 74 yards and one touchdown.
Grand Haven (0-1) travels to Traverse City West (1-0) next Thursday at 7 p.m., while Reeths-Puffer hosts Orchard View.