SPRING LAKE – It was a throwback performance from the Spring Lake football team on Friday night. In 2000, the price of a gallon of gas was right around $1.50. That happens to be the last time the Lakers beat a private-school team.
In 1984, Prince’s “When Doves Cry” topped the Billboard charts – that was the last time a Spring Lake team had three straight shutouts in conference games. Both those records were broken.
While none of their players were born before their last win against Grand Rapids West Catholic in 2000, 2019’s Lakers are building something. Their 42-0 blowout of the Falcons was the program’s biggest win since 2012, and while this year’s Falcons may not be at their best, Dan Start’s team prepared like a team ready to win big.
“I told the kids all week, if they put it together, we need to be ready,” Start said. “They have some firepower, so we prepped really hard all week and good things happened.”
Spring Lake jumped out early offensively and let their defense do the hard work. Touchdowns in their first four drives were just what the Lakers wanted to set the tone. While the Falcons fared slightly better offensively than Comstock Park last week, the Spring Lake defense continued to get tough against the pass.
The Lakers took the ball right down the field on their opening possession. Junior Steve Ready’s longest carry of the night came just a couple plays into the game, as he cut back to the sideline for a 34-yard run down to the West Catholic 24. After a penalty pushed Spring Lake back, the Lakers made a fourth-down conversion before sophomore Christian Folkert scored from 9 yards out.
After a Falcon three-and-out, Ready converted a fourth-and-6 near midfield before the Lakers continued to run on the West Catholic defense. Folkert’s second touchdown was a walk-in from 3 yards out, making it 14-0 with just over a minute left in the quarter.
“Our offensive line made it really easy for us,” Ready said. “The holes were wide open. The offensive line played incredibly, it made my job easy and it made Christian’s easy.”
The Spring Lake defense continued to tighten to end the quarter, with Travis Throop sacking Falcon QB Spencer Zobro on a second down. The older of the Throop brothers had 3 sacks as the team totaled 5.
“It came down to preparation,” Spring Lake’s Robert Galloway said. “Our coaches put us in really good situations, and we just had to do our part.”
Once the Lakers forced West Catholic to punt at the start of the second quarter, Zach Keyser found Aidan Carlson for a 45-yard gain down to the Falcon 10. Two plays later, Keyser snuck in a 2-yard touchdown of his own to make it 21-0. The Lakers had a comfortable lead just 2 minutes into the second quarter.
“It was just fun,” Keyser said. “We were juiced up all week and we were ready for this moment. Warmups, practice all week, we were just ready to go.”
West Catholic didn’t really help themselves on the night. A handful of penalties throughout was one thing, but Zobro’s pass down the sidelines slipped just out of the hands of junior Collin Roth on a potential touchdown. A holding call negated a long run, and the Falcons were forced to punt again.
Spring Lake’s punt on the next possession set up their next touchdown, as a sack and short run meant the Falcons would be punting from their own end zone. The West Catholic punt only made it to the Falcon 20, and Spring Lake would happily take that field position on the way to a Sam Sheridan 8-yard touchdown.
The halftime score was 28-0, but it may as well have been a much bigger scoreline given how well Spring Lake’s defense played. Their pass rush might have had its best night of the year, and the Laker secondary did a solid job at limiting big plays.
“We have a lot of young guys,” sophomore lineman Hunter Throop said. “Just playing in the games have helped. We were back on our heels earlier, but now we know we can win, so we’re just going after teams.”
Carlson would get his touchdown just after halftime, catching a 5-yard pass from Keyser for a touchdown and 35-0 lead. RJ Lisman even got in on the act late, scoring from a yard out to give the Lakers a 42-0 lead with 8:25 left in the game. A running clock and solid defensive performance made the second half a quick one.
“RJ was sitting behind Steve and Sam [Sheridan], so we realized we were kind of wasting him,” Start said. “We moved him behind Christian at fullback, and we’ve been really happy with his progress.”
Ready led the team in rushing with 123 yards, while Folkert added 67 and Sheridan 29. Keyser completed 3 of his 4 attempts for 65 yards and the Carlson touchdown.
Spring Lake will now take their momentum into a tough matchup with perennial powerhouse Grand Rapids Catholic Central. The Cougars haven’t lost to an in-state team all year, and they will test whatever is building with the Lakers. Spring Lake’s players seem up for the task.
“We just need to keep practicing well,” Ready said. “The guys have been so excited to get to practice, we can’t wait to get out there. The key for us has just been having fun, and then we can come out and execute.”