“I was anxious all week,” Staal said. “I didn’t really know what to expect. It went better than I expected.”
That would be an understatement.
Staal, who broke his elbow in two-a-days last summer and missed the entire season, connected with Cotter on scoring tosses of 13, 15, 19 and 27 yards.
“Because he was injured all season he didn’t get any reps,” Grand Haven coach Mike Farley said. “The last time Scott played was when he was a sophomore on JV. I couldn’t be more proud of him. He had a lot of poise tonight. This was really big for him and his confidence. Hopefully, this carries over to the rest of the season.”
Staal had two favorite targets in the game — Alex Eidson caught nine passes for 126 yards while Cotter snared five for 89.
“We’ve been repping a lot of stuff all week,” Staal said. “The line did a great job giving me time. The receivers ran crisp routes. They made it a piece of cake for me.”
Central did a good job stopping the run, holding the Buccaneers to 96 yards rushing.
But when Grand Haven needed a big play, Staal delivered.
“We were hoping he would have more jitters, but he was excellent,” Trojan coach Tom Passinault said. “It looked like he hit a couple checkoffs, too, that you normally don’t see from a guy starting his first game.
“Still, I’m proud of our defense. Our front was much improved. We didn’t give up a lot of big runs. We had a number of tackles for loss. But they made plays over our corners or safeties. Give them credit.”
Staal connected with Cotter on a 13-yard scoring strike to cap a 90-yard drive with 2:18 left in the first quarter. Less than two minutes later, following a C.J. Mott interception, the two teamed up again, this time from 15 yards.
The Trojans then put together a sustained drive, marching to the Buccaneers 16 before settling for a Jacob Gorter 33-yard field goal.
Grand Haven quickly responded, marching 77 yards with Staal sprinting in from 6 yards out to make it 21-3 at half.
The Buccaneers pushed the count to 28-3 on their first possession of the second half. Staal hit Cotter, who cut in front of his defender, on a 19-yard touchdown pass.
Early in the fourth quarter, Central capitalized on a blocked punt to punch in its lone touchdown. T.J. Schwannecke raced 5 yards around left end for the score. Gorter converted.
The Buccaneers seized the momentum right back when Staal found Cotter in the right corner on a 27-yard scoring strike.
“There are some things we have to do to improve, some things we have to shore up a bit,” Farley said. “But for a first game, I was real pleased to be able to score 35 points.”
The Trojans finished with 152 yards rushing and 50 in the air. Tyler Clark led the ground attack with 47 yards. Ryan Verschuren added 43.
“We have some speed and we try to do some things to make that work,” Passinault said. “T.J. (quarterback T.J. Schepperly) was starting his first varsity game. He had a couple errors early, but he’s one of the toughest kids we have. Building a wall around him will be a good thing.
“Our only goal that’s gone is an undefeated season. Now we go into the league and hopefully we’ll get better.”
Grand Haven is coming off an 8-2 season in 2010.
“We only have four starters back on offense, three on defense,” Farley said. “The thing is, we’ve replaced a lot of kids with seniors. We started 10 seniors on offense tonight. That’s what you want when you’re trying to build a program, a successful program on a continuous basis.”
Grand Haven plays host to Traverse City West next week Thursday.