Members of the Lakers’ senior class had never beaten Fruitport on the football field heading into Friday night’s Bayou Battle.
Chase Slagboom and his teammates made their first time one to remember.
Slagboom intercepted three passes and the Lakers came up with numerous key defensive stops throughout the game to defeat the rival Trojans, 10-9, in front of a huge crowd at Thomas Grabinski Field.
“We’ve never beaten Fruitport, so this means so much to win it at home,” Slagboom said. “It was a goal for all of us since we’ve been playing football together since we were 5 years old.”
After the win, the Lakers took possession of the wooden paddle — a traveling trophy given to the winner of the annual rivalry. The Lakers snatched up the paddle and sprinted to the north end zone, where they were swarmed by the Spring Lake cheerleaders and students.
“It’s the greatest feeling in the world,” Slagboom said. “It’s unexplainable. I’m just glad we came out with the win.”
The Lakers took their first lead of the game with 1:10 remaining in the third quarter as Adam Ross boomed a 37-yard field goal that split the uprights for a 10-7 advantage.
Coach Jerry Rabideau showed plenty of faith in his kicker, who had missed a 40-yard try just minutes before.
“The kid’s got a great leg,” Rabideau said. “There was no hesitation.”
The Trojans’ next drive was stalled when Slagboom picked off a Luc Kostamo pass at the Lakers’ 19-yard line on a fourth-and-2 play.
“I was just glad they were coming my way still,” Slagboom said of his third pick.
A holding penalty — the Lakers’ third of the half and their 13th penalty of the game, pushed the ball back inside the 10, and a play for negative yards left the home team facing a fourth-and-29 from their own 1-yard line.
Rabideau elected to take a safety, making it 10-9, rather than trying to punt out of the end zone.
Fruitport nearly took advantage, as Mitchell Reyes returned the ensuing free kick to the Lakers 49-yard line. The Trojans moved the ball down to the 17-yard line, but on fourth down, Collin Cribley’s potential go-ahead field goal sailed wide left with 3:33 remaining.
The Lakers managed to run out the clock thanks to several key first downs, including a huge 48-yard run on a third-and-5 from the Spring Lake 35.
“I’m just so excited for our kids,” said Rabideau, whose team is now 2-1 overall and 1-0 in Lakes Eight play. “A 10-9 game! That’s a great battle.”
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