GRAND HAVEN – There are momentum swings, and then there are whatever Friday night was. Grand Haven’s back-and-forth win over Caledonia came on Homecoming night, in a must-win scenario. Having a small margin for error didn’t seem to rattle the Bucs too much on an important night in their season.
“It was incredible,” Grand Haven quarterback Alex Kapala said. “I still can’t get over how I’m feeling right now. This game was up and down, and had thrills, it was a fun game.”
Connor Worthington’s 10-yard touchdown run with 2:08 left sealed the deal in a 34-27 Grand Haven win, with senior defensive back Tyler Harp intercepting a pass on Caledonia’s final drive to finish the game off. Both teams ran the ball extremely well, but Aidan Cooper forced a fumble of Caledonia’s star running back Carson VanderHoff with 4 minutes remaining to give the Bucs field position for Worthington’s run.
“That was awesome,” Worthington said. “We just had to believe in ourselves, it gave us a little extra boost at the end.”
Caledonia scored first after Kapala fumbled on Grand Haven’s first possession, as VanderHoff ran in from 4 yards out midway through the first quarter. The Bucs wouldn’t take too long to get on the board themselves, as Owen Krizan’s punt return gave them solid field position. Kapala snuck in from a yard out to tie the game 4 minutes into the second quarter.
After the Bucs stopped Caledonia on a fourth down deep in Grand Haven territory, Austin Broemer had his longest run of the night on the next play, taking a handoff 55 yards to the Caledonia 23. After a Krizan first-down run, Worthington barreled in from 3 yards out to take a 14-7 lead with 4 minutes left in the first half.
Broemer and Worthington both had solid nights on the ground, the pair combining for 318 yards and four touchdowns on 35 carries. Krizan added 27 on 4 carries as well.
“Our line is doing a whole lot better,” Grand Haven head coach Joe Nelson said. “They’re confident and tracking super well. Our backs are able to attack the hole with a lot more confidence and it’s coming together like it should.”
“The offensive line got in front of me, and I just ran,” Broemer said. “We had to keep our heads and make sure we played our game. I couldn’t have done it without the team. Everyone around me did their job, so I just did mine.”
VanderHoff was tough to bring down all night, and his speed in the open field was on display during a 57-yard touchdown run with 3:35 left in the half, tying the game at 14. Joe Costello’s big kick return set the ball up in the Caledonia red zone, and Broemer regained the lead with an 8-yard rushing touchdown.
The Bucs would even have a chance to take a 2-possession lead into the half, as Krizan intercepted a pass near midfield. However, a 25-yard Teague Wilson field goal was blocked before halftime. Grand Haven led by a touchdown at the break and increased their lead out of the half courtesy of another Broemer touchdown run – again from 8 yards out. A missed PAT from Wilson gave Grand Haven a 27-14 lead 3 minutes into the third quarter.
VanderHoff had a response of his own, finding another hole for a 50-yard score, his third of the night. The senior would finish with 253 yards on 32 carries to go with his 3 touchdowns.
On the Bucs' next possession, Caledonia blocked a punt and recovered in the end zone to tie the game at 27. Worthington blocked the PAT to keep the game tied heading into the fourth quarter.
Grand Haven would have another chance to kick a field goal, but Wilson’s try from 30 yards out was blocked again at the start of the fourth quarter.
Costello has been a major force from the linebacker position in Grand Haven’s defense, but the senior was injured on a play during the next drive, as Caledonia saw a player ejected for seeming to stop on Costello’s leg. After VanderHoff picked up a pair of first downs, Cooper’s forced fumble was recovered by Landon VanBeek at the Caledonia 42.
“He was holding it out all game, and I just knew I had to make a play for our team,” Cooper said. “Our coaches called a good play to get us there.”
Worthington picked up 15 yards to give the Bucs a first down on the 27, but on third down, Grand Haven fooled the Scots. Kapala hadn’t run much all night, but he kept and picked up 12 yards to the Caledonia 10. On the next play, Worthington took a toss and bounced off a tackler into the end zone.
“We just have confidence in our kids,” Nelson said of using Kapala on third down. “They have trust in each other, we felt like how they overplayed us we had an opportunity to make a play.”
Forced to throw, Caledonia quarterback Jax Kinninger threw a pass that Harp was able to settle under and intercept with just over a minute left. Grand Haven ran out the clock for a back-to-back victory, their first since the start of 2018.
At 3-4, the Bucs face two must-win games to have a chance at qualifying for the state playoffs. They will face West Ottawa at home next Friday.