Grand Haven football flies by Reeths-Puffer in season-opening road win

Josh VanDyke • Aug 24, 2018 at 12:00 AM

MUSKEGON — The new-look Grand Haven Buccaneer football team was replacing all but two starters from last year's squad, and many outside the program questioned whether or not a junior-laden squad would have what it takes to succeed at the varsity level.

As it turns out, they had more than enough.

The undersized Bucs ran circles around the Reeths-Puffer Rockets on Thursday night, racking up 351 total yards in an emphatic 27-0 road shutout win to open the 2018 season.

"It was very exciting. The kids did a great job executing the gameplan and the coaching staff did a great job of putting the kids in a position to succeed," said Grand Haven head coach Joe Nelson. "I couldn't be prouder of the effort they showed tonight, especially for a lot of these kids that were playing their first varsity game on the road."

The Buccaneers got on the board early, when senior quarterback Collin Takas connected with junior wideout Wyatt Tucker for a 33-yard touchdown strike to give Grand Haven an early 7-0 lead.

Pre-snap penalties killed a few potential scoring drives in the second quarter, but the dominant play of the Grand Haven defense had the team feeling confident heading into halftime with a 7-0 lead.

"We struggled with some penalties, and we talked at halftime about keeping our composure and doing the little things correctly," added Nelson. "We felt pretty good about what we were able to do on both sides of the ball in the first half, but when you have that many unforced errors, it's a little unsettling as a coach. Luckily for us, those are very fixable things moving forward."

The second half was all Buccaneers, as Owen Krizan got loose for a five-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter to give Grand Haven a 14-0 lead. On the ensuing drive, junior linebacker Will McWatters recorded his second interception of the game, bringing back the pass attempt 19 yards for another Grand Haven touchdown for what proved to be an insurmountable 20-0 lead late in the third quarter.

After another Grand Haven defensive stand to start the fourth quarter, the Buccaneer offense drove 65 yards for the final score of the game, when Krizan sprinted to the endzone from six yards out to cap the scoring at 27-0 and send the Reeths-Puffer fans heading toward the exits early in the fourth quarter.

Connor Worthington rushed for 104 yards on 19 carries to lead the Grand Haven offense, which finished with 242 yards on the ground and 22 first downs. Krizan finished with 60 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries and also caught two passes for 35 yards.

Takas finished 5-of-11 passing for 109 yards and one touchdown, and also added five rushes for 28 yards on the ground. Braydon Franz led the Buccaneer receiving corps with one catch for 37 yards, while Tucker added a 33-yard touchdown reception and Aidan Cooper caught a 21-yard pass at the end of the first half.

On defense, Cooper led the way with six total tackles, while Krizan added five tackles and a fumble recovery and McWatters added two tackles and two interceptions.

"Connor is as solid as they come," added Nelson. "His physical running style really helped us keep the ball moving on a few drives. We really had a few guys we were able to hand the ball off to and get the job done. The offensive line did a great job of getting a push at the line of scrimmage.

"We are a little smaller than we were last year, but I think we might be faster and more athletic on both sides of the ball. I think the move to the 3-4 formation (on defense) will really help us utilize our speed and quickness, especially at the linebacker position.

"Any time you can shut out an opponent, it's a special thing. Coach (Nate) Allen called a great game at defensive coordinator and our kids really hustled to the ball on every play. I couldn't have asked for a better way to start the season, and we've got a locker room full of guys now who are already excited about next week."

The Buccaneers will host Traverse City West next Thursday at 7 p.m. at Gene Rothi Field.

Junior varsity: Grand Rapids South Christian defeated Grand Haven, 46-29, on Wednesday. Grant Ellis and L.J. Sandoval each rushed for two touchdowns to lead the Grand Haven offense, while Landan Vanbeek and Austin Venema dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and Noah Parson had an interception.

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