Connor Worthington rushes the ball during Friday's pre-district victory over Grandville. 

GRANDVILLE -- A big night from the Grand Haven defense and a huge rushing game from Connor Worthington led the Bucs to their first playoff win since 2009. Grand Haven defeated Grandville in the pre-district game 28-7 Friday night.

“Our coaching staff did an outstanding job getting ready, making sure the kids were in the right place but most importantly making sure the kids were confident and that was huge,” Bucs head coach Joe Nelson said.

“We had a great week of practice this week,” Worthington said. “The scout team gave us some good looks so we knew what we were going to see coming into the game which was really nice. We definitely had confidence going into the game which sometimes we lacked in the preseason. We had confidence in ourselves and we came out strong.”

The Bucs grabbed control of the game early. Grandville received the kickoff to open up the game and were shut down immediately. Grand Haven’s defensive line was stout all night and it started on the first drive of the game when the Bucs forced a Bulldog punt.

Grand Haven opened up their game offensively with a toss to Worthington and he began his big day by breaking a pair of tackles and gaining a first down. Later in the drive the Bucs put the ball in Worthington’s hands again and he broke free down the sideline to give his team a 7-0 lead.

The defense maintained their dominance on the next Bulldog drive and forced another punt. The Bucs had to work a little harder on their second offensive drive. Twice quarterback Alex Kapala faked a handoff and scrambled for big gains to pick up crucial third downs for Grand Haven. Kapala capped his impressive drive with a quarterback sneak into the end zone, putting his team up 14-0 going into halftime.

Grand Haven did not let up coming out of halftime. They received the ball first in the third quarter and a pair of big runs by Owen Krizan put Grand Haven in striking distance. Worthington found the end zone a few plays later to give his team a 21-0 lead.

With under four minutes to play in the third quarter the Grandville offense finally found the end zone. A big pass play staggered the Grand Haven defense momentarily and Grandville took advantage with a score to make the game 21-7.

The Bulldogs seemed to be gaining momentum when they recovered the ensuing onside kick, but the momentum did not last long as Wyatt Tucker forced a fumble deep in Grand Haven territory to get his team the ball back.

Neither team scored again until there was 2:52 to go in the game and Grand Haven lined up to kick a field goal. Owen Worthington took over kicking duties for the night due to Teague Wilson being out with an illness. Worthington lined up for a kick and instead of kicking the ball received the direct snap and threw a touchdown pass to Tucker in the end zone to reach the game's final score.

The Buccaneers move on to play the winner of Hudsonville and Traverse City West, who play Saturday night. 

“Just like all year it’s about us. I know our kids are talented. Our kids know what’s going on and they know it’s about us,” Nelson said about moving on to play next week. “Even tonight our breakdowns were about us. We will focus on us getting better and us focusing on where the guys are going to be across from us so we can play better, with more confidence and faster.”

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