The Buccaneers were released into the wild Tuesday night at Grand Haven High School and the visiting O-K Red Conference foes from Hudsonville had no chance of corralling them once they gathered some early momentum.
Grand Haven scored early and often, with senior forward Conner Lund scoring off an assist from Mason Mahacek just 30 seconds into play.
Lund would add his second goal via penalty kick less than five minutes later and complete a hat-trick at the 29:25 mark of the first half to register the three-goal performance in a grand total of 10 minutes, 35 seconds of action.
Mahacek added a goal of his own, on an assist from Lund, at the 29:04 mark of the half, while senior Andrew Glockzin scored off an assist from Jake Thayer to help build a 5-0 halftime lead for the Buccaneers.
In the second half, senior Tavin Ardell added a free-kick goal and Glockzin would add his second goal of the night off an assist from Jax Mast to bring the game to its 7-0 conclusion.
“I think, for us, it was just a matter of breaking out of a rut,” said Grand Haven head coach Aaron Dean. “We played East Kentwood and Spring Lake, who are two very talented defensive teams, and we just weren’t executing well against their pressure.
“In those games, our forwards weren’t very active, we were pretty stagnate, and we were holding on to the ball too long. So, we wanted to fix some of those little things and get things rolling for us in a positive way. We needed to give a little more effort to create some opportunities.
“In our last game against West Ottawa, we started to play a lot better, and we were moving toward those improvements, but we just weren’t finding our rhythm. Tonight, it all came together nicely and we really got things going early and often.”
While the game snowballed on Hudsonville, Dean doesn’t believe it was a true indicator of the quality of the two teams.
“You can never really predict these types of games,” he said. “We aren’t quite that good and Hudsonville isn’t that bad. It was just one of those games where we got a couple goals really quickly and jumped on them early and it turns into a big advantage for us.
“I really like the work rate out there. The backs were stepping up and not giving Hudsonville any time, and I think that took them out of their rhythm offensively. It was a nice team effort tonight. The forwards did their jobs, the backs did their jobs, and we played together and formed that fist. On some nights, like tonight, we can deliver that knockout punch if we work together like that.”
After being the key of most team’s defensive gameplans against the Buccaneers, senior forward Conner Lund and the rest of his running mates seemed to finally break free and create some magic in the opposition’s half of the field.
“It was really nice to see Lund find his rhythm out there on that first touch-goal that he scored,” Dean added. “Forwards have to do creative stuff like that in order to be effective. When you miss on some of those plays, it can get in your head a little bit, so I was happy to see him score that first one and get that confidence back. Mason did the same thing from up top, and he set up two of Conner’s goals. He can be a real dangerous player for us from his position and tonight; he really set the forwards up with some nice opportunities.”
Part of the team’s success this season can be attributed to the environment built by the upperclassmen in the program.
“This group of guys has really created a team chemistry and a culture where everyone cares about each other and everyone supports each other,” said Dean. “It’s been really fun to see the starters come off the field, like they did tonight, and they are still into the game and cheering on the younger guys.
“At practice, everyone is supportive and that creates a positive environment around our team. Brenner Kar works his tail off in practice, but he doesn’t get to play a lot during games because he’s behind two good keepers on the depth chart. Tonight, he gets in there, and he’s excited to be out there and his teammates are excited for him, and he ends up making more saves than anyone else.”
Every championship team has winning characteristics, and Dean sees a few traits in this year’s Buccaneer squad that has the makings for a potentially special team.
“I always try and make a checklist of things that a team needs to have in order to be special,” he said. “We’ve got some kids that can be explosive, offensively, we’ve got a group of backs that really believe in themselves and they are communicating well with the goalkeepers, and then we have that team chemistry, too.
“If they’ve got those three aspects as a team this year. It still takes a lot of hard work and some luck after that, but we like the way this team is coming together and some of those indicators of a good group are there, which is exciting and fun to be around.”
Grand Haven (5-1-2, 2-1-1 O-K Red) travels to take on Rockford (4-3-3, 1-2-1 O-K Red) on Thursday at 7:15 p.m.
“We’re going to enjoy this tonight and probably half of practice tomorrow, but then we need to get back to work,” Dean continued. “There’s still work to do, and we have to play a tough Rockford team on Thursday. We still have Grandville on the schedule, and then we have to hit that recycle part of the schedule where we see teams for a second time.
“If we’re going to compete for the conference, we’re going to have to beat East Kentwood, and we’ve still got tough teams like Caledonia and West Ottawa that we will see again, too.”