The Bucs hit the field flying, scoring three goals in the first 21 minutes of play. All three came courtesy of Mason Mahacek, a sophomore player called up from the junior varsity squad.
Mahacek began his scoring party and the Grand Haven offensive bonanza in the 30th minute with a creative finish on a tight seam pass by Ethan King.
Photo gallery from Tuesday’s game
Apparently unsatisfied with his heavy-traffic goal, Mahacek tacked on another goal for the Bucs shortly after. Finding himself alone on the far side of the net, the rising sophomore sent a pristine strike sailing over the head of Rockford’s keeper.
Mahacek finished off his 22-minute hat trick with a rebound goal off of a shot by fellow sophomore and JV call-up Jack Deklyen. Rockford’s keeper blocked the initial shot before Mahacek sent it home.
“Mason has trained with us most of the year,” said Grand Haven coach Aaron Dean of his young playmaker. “We have five or six JV kids that have trained with us. We got to the point where these guys were doing things that could help us out. Mason got the first three goals tonight. We were happy.”
The Rams grabbed their only goal in the final minute of the first half courtesy of a penalty kick, putting the score at 3-1 at halftime.
The second half was short on goals but high in emotion. A reinvigorated Rockford team took the field ready to mount a comeback but the stalwart Bucs backline denied them that satisfaction.
The only goal scored in the second half was by DeKlyen, not to be outdone by his underclassmen compatriot. The fresh playmaker capitalized off of a thwarted set piece and crisp center ball by Mason Harloff for a dunk on the Rockford doorstep.
“Rockford is always a competitive game,” Dean said. “It’s a rivalry game. It doesn’t matter, we could both be last in the league and it is going to be a game like this with high intensity.”
Fortunately neither team is fighting for last in the O-K Red Conference standings. Rockford currently sits in the drivers seat with their only conference loss to Grand Haven. Without another matchup between the two before the end of the season, the conference is Rockford’s to lose.
Coach Dean has turned his thoughts to the bigger picture.
“With not being in control of what happens in the league, our focus turns to the end of the season,” he said after the game. “Certainly, we will take things one game at a time, but building components we need to work on is our focus.”
One of those components all season has been the Bucs defense, which played lights out on Tuesday.
“They are more organized. The whole group has started to gel together, and we’ve got a good rotation back there,” Dean said.
The Bucs and their reinvigorated young roster take on fellow O-K Red competitor Grandville on Thursday night before returning home for their final two regular season matchups with Caledonia and East Kentwood.