But Eagles’ sophomore quarterback Mason Opple — who struggled mightily throughout the contest and didn’t compete his first pass until the third quarter — seemingly flipped on a switch and ignited the Eagles to a stunning finish.
Opple completed five passes in Hudsonville’s hurry-up offense on the decisive drive, including the game-winning 5-yarder in the flats to tight end Dakota Butcher with 14 seconds remaining, giving the Eagles a stunning 20-16 victory over the host Buccaneers.
“We went into the hurry-up mode and added a few things to it, and guys just started making plays,” said an ecstatic Hudsonville head coach, Dave Lidgard. “I tell you what, with high school sports, it just an interesting thing with emotion and ebbs and flows. We needed that victory. It’s been a struggle for us all season.”
It was just the Eagles’ second win this fall and it came in spoiler mode. The loss for Grand Haven all but eliminates any slight hope the Bucs had at reaching the Division 1 playoffs or having a chance at a share of the O-K Red Conference title. They now sit at 3-5 overall with a visit from league-leading Rockford looming in the regular season finale next week.
“Yeah, this one really does (hurt),” said a somber Grand Haven head coach Mike Farley. “We needed this one to put us even at 4-4, with a chance to compete for a share of the league title next week. But now, that’s not going to happen.”
Grand Haven was in control throughout the first half, as its defense completely bottled up the Eagles, limiting them to just 13 total yards. Opple was a complete mess, as he was 0-for-6 passing, including a badly thrown heave over the middle that was picked off by the Bucs’ Ryan Maguire in the first quarter.
Grand Haven opened a 7-0 first quarter lead on a 12-yard touchdown run by sophomore Aaron Gordon, and had some success running the ball throughout the first half with junior tailback Abe Westerman picking up 51 tough yards between the tackles. He led the Bucs with 72 yards on 21 carries.
Senior quarterback Michael Penland also had one of his most successful stretches of the season, as he completed his first 11 passes and threw for 103 first-half yards.
To read more of this story, see today's print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.