It took an injury to starting wide receiver Isaak Newhouse for Schaefer Thelen to impact Friday night’s must-win showdown against East Lansing.
The Buccaneers’ junior made the most of his opportunities.
Thelen carried the Bucs down the field in the closing minutes and scored on a 1-yard plunge with 1:38 remaining, helping Grand Haven hold off East Lansing at a packed Buccaneer Stadium, 10-6.
“It seems like a dream to score the winning touchdown,” Thelen said after the game. “I wasn’t playing a lot in this game, but when Isaak (Newhouse) got hurt I had to play his receiver spot. I knew we had to march down the field, I just didn’t know I’d be put in that position to be able to win the game. It was a complete team effort, holes were opening up everywhere that entire final drive, then our defense shut them down to get the win for us.”
Grand Haven controlled the scoreboard for more than three and a half quarters with a 3-0 lead, before giving up a touchdown to the Trojans late.
Second half turnovers and penalties came back to bite the Bucs, at least temporarily as they gave up the go ahead score to East Lansing on a touchdown pass to running back Marq Adams from quarterback Reece Piotter with 4:18 left in the game.
The Bucs answered, as they went up-tempo, running a wildcat style offense, commanded by Thelen. The Bucs’ offense took control of the ball on their own 30-yard line and orchestrated a seven-play scoring drive, with Thelen punching the go ahead score in from the 1-yard line.
On the previous play, he carried a pile of East Lansing defenders for several yards to reach the 1.
The pace of the game was mostly dictated by penalties from both teams, overshadowing what was a dominating performance for three and a half quarters by Grand Haven.
Linebacker Aaron Gordon made several big plays on defense for the Bucs, as did Connor Rood, Wade Wilson and Abe Westerman.
By Ryan Miller, Tribune Correspondent
Read more of this story in today's print edition or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.