A stunning upset by the hands of the Grant Tigers wasn’t what the Lakers had in mind.
Grant senior kicker Andrew Dent — who missed a potential game-tying extra point earlier in the fourth quarter — connected on a 25-yard field goal that stuck the right upright and bounced over the crossbar with 4 seconds remaining, giving the Tigers a stunning 30-28 victory at Grabinski Field.
The loss drops Spring Lake to 1-3 overall and 0-2 in the Lakes Eight Conference.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been 1-3 here. Ever,” said a subdued Spring Lake coach, Jerry Rabideau.
Upstart Grant, meanwhile, can stake its claim now at being the leaders of the conference, along with unbeaten Fruitport. The Tigers are 2-0 in league play and 2-2 overall.
Grant played spoilers before an impressive Spring Lake crowd simply by being resilient after falling behind 21-7 in the second quarter and relying on the big play throughout. The Tigers forced two critical Spring Lake turnovers in a span of 35 seconds late in the fourth quarter, starting with an amazing play by Tigers’ linebacker River Melcher with 3:15 to play.
With Spring Lake holding a 28-21 lead, the Lakers were intent on running down the clock with runs between the tackles. But on a designed keeper by quarterback Jake Chittenden, Melcher ripped the ball right out of the Lakers’ signal caller’s hands and raced the other way untouched 80 yards for a touchdown. The very important extra point was pushed wide right by Dent, however, keeping the Lakers on top, 28-27.
Spring Lake, which played relatively error-free football through three quarters, was plagued again by its season-long bugaboo of fumble-itis. The Lakers coughed up another fumble just four plays later, which Grant pounced on with 2:39 showing on the clock.
The Tigers’ 2-minute offense was simple — hand the ball to 5-foot-10, 200-pound running back Brandon Blouwkamp. Earlier in the week, the senior was expected to miss Friday’s game with an injury, but he played and was a pain for the Lakers throughout with 16 carries for 195 yards and two touchdowns.
“I haven’t had a back with his combination of size and speed,” said Grant coach Jim Stickney. “If you got a guy who can carry the ball 30 times a game, we want to give him the ball. I told him before that last series, ‘we’re going to ride ya.’”
Bouwkamp carried the ball six times, helping the Tigers reach the 16-yard line with under 30 seconds remaining. The Tigers then drew a pass interference call on the Lakers, putting the ball at the 8 with 10 seconds to go.
Stickney immediately called for the field goal unit, although the Tigers had one more timeout left.
“Our coaches were harping on me that we got 10 seconds left, and maybe we should run another play,” he said. “But in the back of my mind the whole time, I knew we could make that kick.”
Stickney decided to burn the last timeout and asked Dent if he was ready to be the hero.
“He told me ‘no problem,’” Stickney said.
The ball looked like it would sail wide right off Dent’s foot, but it caught the upright and bounced over as the Spring Lake crowd let out a collective groan. The successful score was made possible by a great hold by Grant sophomore quarterback Garrett Bomay, who had to quickly scoop the snap off the ground and place it down.
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