With their back against the wall knowing they needed a victory to make the playoffs, Fruitport gave No. 1 ranked DeWitt all it could handle Friday night.
But offensive struggles and turnovers hurt the Trojans, and allowed the Panthers to finally break the dam’s wall in the fourth quarter. DeWitt scored twice in the final five minutes to win in a closer-than-it-looked contest, 31-7.
“The kids did a great job,” Trojans’ coach Greg Vargas said. “We had opportunities. I feel frustrated and bad that we’re having this conversation again about all the opportunities that we had. That’s a hard pill to swallow. The kids got themselves in positions — they made some plays defensively, we just weren’t able to put enough offensive plays together to sting ’em when we had the opportunity.”
Fruitport started the game off hot.
The Trojans forced a three-and-out on the Panther’s first drive.
With a short field starting at the 50-yard line, Derek White burst up the left side for a 32-yard gain.
Quarterback Luc Kostamo kept the drive alive on a fourth-and-1 keeper, before finding Mitchell Reyes in the end zone when faced with the same situation four plays later.
After the two squads traded several punts, the duo connected once again.
Kostamo evaded the pass rush, throwing a beautiful ball that Reyes tiptoed near the sideline to haul in for a 13-yard gain.
Once again the Trojans were in Panther territory, and deja vu appeared to occur as White found some daylight up the sideline.
The speedy back gained 14 on the run, but Reyes suffered a mild concussion on the play.
Without their No. 1 target, the offense struggled. Fruitport ended the drive with a fumble, and the next with an interception.
“It was a hard loss,” Trojans’ senior Travis Grimm said. “We came out, we stopped them. We were only down by three points in the first half — it felt good. But we came back out, and it all started going downhill from there. It was still a great season though.”
After the game, the field was covered with Fruitport players, coaches and fans supporting each other after the end of the season.
Many of them were emotional, including coach Vargas.
“We have a great community,” Vargas said. “It floors me every time that win, lose or draw, our family, friends and students (show) love (for) our kids. … Unless you win the state championship, you always end with a loss. That’s hard to swallow. I feel for the seniors, because I know it’s really tough to walk off that field that last time.
“It’s a big family for sure,” Grimm said. “I went to (Mona) Shores my middle school years. I came over to Fruitport and I didn’t really know anybody. I met everybody here. It’s such a big family — it’s crazy. And I love everybody here.”
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