Looking for a way to jump-start the offense, the Bucs’ coaches went to the Wildcat, and junior Isaak Newhouse made his coaches look like geniuses.
Newhouse rushed for 67 yards and three touchdowns, and also scooped up a fumble on an incomplete backward pass and returned it 81 yards for a fourth score, propelling Grand Haven to an impressive 32-21 Homecoming victory over the visiting Falcons of East Kentwood. The Bucs are now 3-3 overall and, more importantly, 2-0 in O-K Red Conference play.
“Whatever we need to do to win,” Newhouse said when asked about his role in the offense. “We used the Wildcat a little bit last week and a little bit more this week.”
On his fumble return for a touchdown, Newhouse wasn’t sure if the play would be ruled a fumble or an incomplete pass, so he scooped up the ball and headed for the end zone, hoping he didn’t hear a whistle that signaled the play dead.
“Coach (Jason) Durham always says just treat it like it’s a fumble, so I just kept on running,” he said.
An East Kentwood defender was step-for-step with Newhouse all the way to the 20, but the Bucs’ explosive safety pulled away for the score.
“With his speed, I knew he was gone,” Bucs’ coach Mike Farley said.
The Wildcat offense, Farley said, is just another way to get the ball in the hands of his team’s best playmakers.
“It just gives us an opportunity to have an extra back in the backfield, and Isaak is a special athlete. We’ve got to get the ball in his hands.”
Fellow junior Abe Westerman also had a huge game on the ground for the Buccaneers, racking up a season-best 162 yards on 28 carries. He broke off a few big runs, including a 45-yarder that set up one of Newhouse’s scores.
“We’ve got to be able to mix it up a bit, but we have to be able to run the football to have success,” Farley said.
Grand Haven’s defense was also solid, limiting East Kentwood to just 21 yards on the ground. They also put a tremendous amount of pressure on Falcons’ quarterbacks Alex Browley and Kyle Friberg, sacking the pair six times. Matt Mulcahy accounted for a pair of sacks while Aaron Gordon registered a sack among his team-leading seven tackles.
“We did a good job rushing the quarterback, putting a lot of pressure on him,” said Bucs’ linebacker Quinton Morley.
A big chunk of East Kentwood’s 242 total yards came on their first offensive play, a double-reverse flea flicker from Browley to Kaelin McKenzie for 47 yards.
“They had that trick play at the beginning of the game, but we responded,” Farley said. “We were able to stop the run and we did a good job putting pressure on their quarterbacks.”
That trick play set up running back Jalen ArizolaBett’s 2-yuard touchdown run just 2:10 into the game.
Grand Haven responded with a nice drive of its own, with Westerman breaking off a big run before Newhouse scored from 2 yards out.
On the point-after try, the snap went over the head of kicker Ryan Maguire. Maguire snared the ball out of the air, then patiently surveyed the field before throwing a strike to tight end Anthony Perrier for two points.
Newhouse broke loose for a dazzling 23-yard touchdown run later in the first quarter, and Maguire’s kick made it 15-7.
Neither team managed to score in the second quarter, then the Bucs opened up a two-score lead on Newhouse’s fumble return for a score early in the third.
East Kentwood responded when Timothy Carter intercepted a pass by Bucs’ quarterback Karl Johnson and sprinted 25 yards for a touchdown. ArizolaBett’s two-point conversion made it 22-15 Bucs.
Grand Haven’s offense continued to gobble up big chunks of yardage, and early in the fourth quarter, Westerman broke free for 15 yards down to the 3-yard line, then Newhouse scored two plays later.
Sawyer Jacobs’ interception later in the fourth set up Maguire’s 30-yard field goal, which capped off a fantastic night for the Buccaneers’ kicker, who also plays defensive back. He was in on several big defensive plays, totaling 5.5 tackles in addition to his extra points and his impressive two-point conversion pass.
East Kentwood scored its final touchdown with just 38 seconds remaining when Friberg hit Colin Calloway on a 9-yard scoring pass.
The Bucs recovered the onside kick, and can now turn their attention to rival West Ottawa next Friday.
“This was a big night for us,” Morley said. “Our crowd was amazing. It’s such an adrenaline rush. We feel so much stronger when they’re behind us.”
Grand Haven finished with a season-high 251 yards rushing on 50 carries.
That made up for an ineffective night throwing the ball. Starting quarterback Michael Penland was 2-of-13 passing for 39 yards and was picked off twice. Johnson, who started last week when Penland was out with a concussion, entered the game in the second half and was 1-for-2 for 19 yards and an interception.
Freshmen: Grand Haven suffered a 22-0 loss to East Kentwood on Thursday. Jared Boeve passed for 65 yards for the Bucs, while Drew Bruursema and Kane Wilkinson combined for over 100 yards rushing. Lukas Steffel and James Harding provided solid blocking, while Riley Brown and Andrew Dalman led the defensive charge.