On the opening drive of the game, Holland Christian fumbled in its own territory, giving Spring Lake a chance to make a statement early on in the contest.
The Lakers did just that, marching 40 yards for a touchdown, capped by a touchdown run by junior quarterback Caleb Montgomery from five yards out to give Spring Lake an early 7-0 lead and send the Laker faithful into a frenzy at Grabinski Field.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature and the Holland Christian offense would rain on the Spring Lake Homecoming parade, with the Maroons scoring six straight touchdowns in response to the Lakers’ opening score for a 43-16 road win Friday night.
“We started the game off well in the wishbone, and we had some success running the ball with that. But then we stalled running out of the wishbone after that, and we had to switch to more of a spread look,” said Spring Lake head coach Dan Start. “We just didn’t get our feet out in front of us quick enough.
“That’s been our biggest problem this season. We just start out so slow to open games. We actually came out hot in that first series tonight and scored, but then we ran into a lull. We have to sustain that better.”
The Spring Lake defense was solvent against a high-powered passing attack, limiting big plays through the air. However, junior quarterback Wilson Wirebaugh and senior running back Jacob Schuab made enough plays in the ground game to help the Maroons to a healthy lead.
“Our defensive backs did a nice job of keeping the receivers in front of them,” Start added. “They didn’t really hit any big pass plays on us, which they are known for doing. They like to test people with deep shots, and I thought we did a nice job of negating that. We just needed to do a better job of getting out into the flats and we didn’t cover the underneath stuff very well. Those are things that we have to keep working on and getting better at.
“As a coach, I get excited when we do things the right way on a play, but it’s not that way every time. Good teams do that every time, and we have to learn how to be more consistent. We have a lot of work ahead of us in order to change that.”
Wirebaugh accounted for five of the Maroons’ six touchdowns, throwing for three scores and added two on the ground, while Schaub added a four-yard touchdown run of his own.
For the Lakers, Montgomery scored a 1-yard touchdown run with one minute left in the game to finish with both of the Lakers’ touchdowns on the night. Junior kicker Eli Denslow also added a 42-yard field goal at the end of the third quarter.
“I thought Caleb Montgomery did a nice job running the offense tonight. He’s starting to come into his own at the position, and he’s getting more and more comfortable out of the spread. He’s an incredible athlete, and he throws a good football, but he’s got to get a handle on the mental aspects of the position and learn where and when to throw it. He’s never been taught that, so it’s a learning process.
“Mitchell Payne did a nice job coming out of the backfield and making some plays. He’s just a little fireball out there. He goes a thousand miles per hour out there and you have to love his effort when he’s out there playing. Joe Chittenden did a nice job running the football inside for us, too.”
Senior safety Jason Keena returned from an injury sustained early in the season and Coach Start was happy to see one of his senior leaders back on the field to enjoy Homecoming and one of his final home games of his high school career.
“It was also nice to have Jason back there on defense at safety. He’s one of my favorite kids to coach, so it was awesome to have him back out there and being able out finish out his senior season,” he said.”
The Lakers are now 0-7 on the season with contests at Allendale and home against Comstock Park to end the season. While the 2017 season won’t be one marked with a winning record or a playoff appearance, it could serve as a building block toward future success.
“We brought up two sophomores this week in Zach Keyser and Kyle Garrison,” added Start. “Kyle played a great game at linebacker for us and showed a lot poise out there. We’re excited about that and the potential that some of these sophomores and juniors have.
“I would say 80 or 90 percent of our defense in the second half was juniors or sophomores. That’s good to see them learn and grow and gain some valuable game experience out here at the varsity level. On the offensive side of the ball, we have a lot of skill position players that are juniors, as well.
“We’re just going to keep working at practice, keep learning and hopefully we’ll start putting more points up on the board and start getting some wins.”