SL can’t produce late dramatics in opener

A year ago, Spring Lake scored a touchdown as time expired to beat Whitehall in the season-opener for both teams. On Thursday night, the Lakers looked poised for another dramatic win, but a costly interception by quarterback Keegan Wolter with just over a minute remaining helped the visiting Vikings hold on for a wild 33-31 win over the host Lakers at Thomas E. Grabinski Field.
Matt DeYoung
Aug 26, 2011

The Lakers led 17-0 late in the first quarter, only to see the Vikings storm back with 21 consecutive points to lead by four at the half. The teams twice traded touchdowns in the second half, with the Viking scoring the game-winner on quarterback Steve Sika’s 1-yard sneak with 6:58 to play.

“What an introduction to high school football,” said Vikings’ coach Cliff Sandee, who was hired to coach the team on the first day of fall practice. “Teams in the past would have had a hard time coming back from those two early turnovers, plus that late turnover with the lead. We shot ourselves in the foot and kept walking.”

The Vikings fumbled their second play from scrimmage, setting up a 5-yard scoring run by Wolter. Whitehall then coughed up the ball on the ensuing kickoff, leading to junior Cody Berkobien’s 1-yard scoring plunge.

Wolter’s pass to Mitch Kriger for the two-point conversion made it 14-0 Spring Lake midway through the first quarter.

The Lakers also received a 24-yard field goal from Carter Bench to lead 17-0 before Whitehall stormed back. First, halfback Antwan Burks broke free for a 25-yard scoring scamper. A few minutes later, the Vikings blocked a punt by the Lakers’ A.J. Lisman. Brandon Delarosa picked up the loose ball and rumbled 18 yards for a touchdown.

Sika hooked up with Burks on a 17-yard scoring pass just before the end of the half for a 21-17 advantage.

“What I was proud of is that we came out mentally focused and executed well out of the gate,” said Lakers’ coach Jerry Rabideau, whose team scored on its first possession of the second half on a 1-yard Berkobien run. The Lakers had chances to extend their lead, taking over deep in Whitehall territory later in the third quarter after a botched snap on a punt try by the Vikings. Later in the third, Wolters’ pass was tipped and picked off by Whitehall’s Joe Sika. Sika returned the ball down to the Lakers’ 11, and on the next play, Steven Sika found Delarosa for a touchdown and a 27-24 lead.

Wolters’ 63-yard scoring strike to Jon Mundt and Sika’s quarterback sneak in the fourth quarter left the Lakers trailing by two points with under seven minutes remaining.

Wolter again had a pass intercepted, again by Joe Sika, with 5 minutes to play, and Whitehall had a chance to run out the clock, but the Lakers came up with a big defensive play of their own as they stripped the ball from Vikings’ running back John Beeghly and recovered the ball at the Lakers’ 30.

Wolter moved his team down the field and nearly to within field goal range before the Vikings’ third pick of the game sealed the victory for the Vikings.

To read more of this story, see today's print edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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