“The further along in the season we go, the more confidence we get,” said senior lineman Torrey Appel.
Appel said seeing his team’s running backs break into the open field for big gains makes all the hard work worth while.
“It just feels great. It’s a mini win every time that happens,” he said.
There were plenty of wins on Friday on a blustery, windy evening that saw the second half delayed for several minutes after the two light fixtures on the south end of the stadium were accidentally turned off.
The teams played in partial darkness until the lights were powered back up.
Howard, who typically takes a back seat to Smith in the Bucs’ running game, showed an explosive burst on Friday as he hit the hole hard and was tough to bring down once he reached the open field. He scored on runs of 15 yards late in the second quarter and 14 yards early in the third. He had a big chunk of yardage taken off his total due to a block in the back at the end of a 50-yard run in the second quarter, and had a 65-yard touchdown called back because of a hold later in the second.
“Dakota Smith and Devin Howard both had great nights,” said Grand Haven coach Mike Farley, whose team is now 5-1 overall and 3-1 in O-K Red play. “Our offensive line made some nice blocks. They did a great job opening up holes for our guys. I couldn’t be happier.”
Smith added touchdown runs of 10 and 8 yards for the Bucs, while quarterback Scott Staal opened the scoring with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Alex Eidson in the first quarter. Staal finished the night 7-for-11 passing for 141 yards.
Eidson, the Bucs’ outstanding receiver, kicker and punter, was hurt later in the half as he went down hard on a shoulder that had already been injured earlier in the year. He missed the entire second half. Danny Cotter handled the place kicking duties in Eidson’s absence.
The Bucs’ defense played well in spurts against the Bulldogs, but also gave up several big plays. On their opening series of the game, facing a third-and-29 from their own 19-yard line, quarterback Colin DeKam broke free on a keeper and rumbled 56 yards all the way to the Bucs’ 19-yard line. The drive stalled there, and Grandville settled for a 30-yard field goal by Alex Crisan.
DeKam hooked up with fullback Dean DeVries on a 17-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to trail by just four points, 14-10.
Howard’s touchdown run made it 21-10, but the Bulldogs drove deep into Buccaneer territory again, only to have Grand Haven’s Cotter make a diving interception to thwart the drive and preserve the Bucs’ lead at the half.
“That was a huge play,” Farley said. “I really think that was the big momentum swing. They got the ball down into the red zone too many times tonight. They haven’t won a game yet, but they’ve got some top-notch athletes. They’re good football players.”
Grand Haven’s success in running the ball helped the Bucs dominate time of possession as they held the ball for 33:26 to just 24:50 for Grandville. Grand Haven picked up 8-of-12 third down conversions and was 1-of-1 on fourth down. The Bucs scored in all six of their trips inside the red zone while the Bulldogs were just 3-of-6 on drives that reached inside the Grand Haven 20-yard line.
Grand Haven closes out its season with a trio of tough games. The Bucs travel to East Kentwood to face the Falcons next Friday before coming home to meet Muskegon and West Ottawa the final two weeks of the regular season.
“We need one more win to make the playoffs, but we really want to win out so we can host a playoff game,” Appel said.