The Bucs opened their O-K Red Conference season Friday night with a 41-7 loss to Grandville at home. Solid play by the defense was hindered by a turnover-prone attack, as Grand Haven coughed up the ball four times in the opening half.
The Buccaneers’ lone touchdown came with 33 seconds left in the game on a 33-yard pass from backup quarterback Collin Takas to Tristan Winkleman. Jake Thayer hit the extra point.
Defense was the name of the game early, as neither team found the end zone in the opening frame. As the second quarter wore on, the turnovers added up for Grand Haven, giving Grandville all the scoring chances they could handle.
The Bulldogs racked up four rushing touchdowns in the second quarter as the Bucs’ defense wore down. They managed to foil two of four two-point conversion tries, giving Grandville an even 28-0 lead heading into the locker room.
“Bottom line is, we put the ball on the ground, or gave them the ball four times in one half, and it is hard to recover from that against this kind of team, no matter how well your defense plays,” Grand Haven head coach Joe Nelsen said. “Offensively, we did do really well at times. We were moving the ball five or six yards a pop, then we just gave it up.”
The third quarter saw just one score, as the Bulldogs took another rushing touchdown. Grand Haven blocked the extra point to hold them to a 34-point lead heading into the final frame.
Grandville scored one final touchdown on the ground in the fourth quarter, accompanied by an extra point to bring them to their final tally.
“Our defense played great tonight. Forty one points isn’t something you ever want to see, but there is more to that story,” Nelson said. “Coach Allen did a phenomenal job getting them prepared, the scout team kids did a great job for the defense and I feel like they did well.”
“They were out there for a lot of time and we have a lot of kids that play both ways, but the guys are in good shape. We can’t afford to have that be an excuse. We just have to grit it out and they did. They didn’t complain and kept working hard.”
On offense, the Bucs showed flashes of brilliance amidst the mistakes. On their first possession of the second half, backs Malic Love and Charlie Young teamed up to drive Grand Haven from their own 20-yard line into the redzone, only to stall just short of the goal line, setting up a theme for the second half.
“We did well in the second half, we drove and got some yards and started to move the field,” Nelsen said. “We faded at the end there, but we felt like we could move the ball and do some good things.”
Young led the Bucs on the ground with 61 yards on 14 attempts, Love followed with 52 yards on seven rushes.
The Bucs never got it going in the air, completing just two passes on the day. Starting quarterback Adam Nelson finished 1-for-9 passing for 26 yards with 42 yards rushing, while Takas finished 1-for-1 with his 33-yard touchdown pass.
Winkleman led Grand Haven in receiving with his 33-yard touchdown catch, while Kellum Bridgeforth hauled in their only other completion for 26 yards.
Despite their early production, the Grand Haven defense failed to show up on the stat sheet. Bridgeforth led with eight tackles, while the team recorded zero sacks and just one tackle for a loss.
The loss drops Grand Haven to 0-3 on the season and 0-1 in the O-K Red. They take on West Ottawa next week with a chance for redemption.
“I am proud of their effort, I don’t blame their effort at all,” Nelsen said. “They played hard and went after it and never gave up.”
Coach Nelsen asserted there would be no major changes to Grand Haven’s gameplan ahead of their date with the Panthers, just careful preparation.
“Like I’ve always said, we will make sure we study what we see on film and make sure to correct our errors and build on what we do. We can’t change stuff now, or we just won’t be good at a whole new set of things. We just have to get better at what we do.”