GRAND HAVEN – Grand Haven quarterback Alex Kapala hit a streaking Braydon Franz in stride to put the Buccaneers on the board halfway through the second quarter to bring the Bucs within one score. Unfortunately, Grand Haven would not find the end zone again in their 27-7 loss to Grandville.
“It always means a lot to be out here with my brothers, but to have another name on your back that’s not yours meant a whole lot more. It’s indescribable how important that feels that you’re playing for someone.” Kapala said.
Friday was the football team’s Bucs’ Pride night. Giving players the chance to swap out their blue and gold for purple and wear the names of loved ones that have been affected by cancer on the back of their jerseys.
“I explained to them in the huddle that we’ve got to suck it up. We’re all disappointed, we’re all upset, we’re angry. But there’s something a whole lot bigger than them right now,” Grand Haven head coach Joe Nelson said. “They’ve got to go and present a jersey to somebody who’s it’s either in memory of, a cancer survivor or somebody going through it right now. It’s so important for them to understand when adversity hits, how you handle it?”
Grandville received the ball to begin the game and their offense was moving the ball with ease early on. Bulldogs fullback Cam Terry capped off their inaugural drive with a 37-yard touchdown, and with a successful two point conversion the score was quickly 8-0.
The Bulldogs defense was able to prevent retaliation from the Buccaneers giving the ball back to their offense. With just under eight minutes remaining in the first half, Marcel Love ran in a 5-yard touchdown for Grandville extending the lead to 14-0 after the 2-point conversion was no good.
Grand Haven then responded with Kapala’s 60-yard touchdown pass and a made PAT to make the score 14-7. The score remained 14-7 for the first half, but the Buccaneers ended the half with momentum and received the kickoff in the second half with a chance to tie the game.
Grand Haven came out of the half with a close game and the crowd fully into the game, ready for the Bucs’ to take the game over, but mental mistakes would bring the Grand Haven momentum to a screeching halt. A fumbled handoff exchange between Kapala and Will McWatters led to great field position for the Bulldog offense.
“I thought we had a little momentum going in at halftime. We were in the game and feeling pretty good about what we had going and we came out and had the ball on the ground,” Nelson said. “All of a sudden, we got ourselves into a little bit of trouble and that hurts. Playing the fourth-ranked team in the state you can’t make a mistake like that.”
The Bulldogs were unable to take advantage of the Grand Haven miscue, and instead responded with one of their own. Grandville’s quarterback fumbled a snap that the Bucs recovered on the two yard line. The offense had their backs against the wall and were unable to get anything going with their rushing attack, so they punted the ball back to the Bulldogs.
With two and a half minutes remaining in the third quarter, Love found the end zone for the second time in the game, this time from 12 yards out. The conversion attempt was no good and the Bulldogs took a 20-7 lead. The following possession, Grand Haven had a chance to grab the momentum back when Kapala threw the ball to a wide-open Adam Strom, but the ball was dropped and the Bucs’ would have to punt on that drive.
The Bulldogs would add one more touchdown to their lead when they sprinkled in one of their four passes for the game for an 8-yard touchdown.
Grandville’s run-heavy straight-T offense gained 258 total yards with 250 of those coming via the run. Grand Haven finished the game with 82 total yards, 73 of them coming from the arm of Kapala. The Buccaneers ran 36 plays on offense while their opponents ran 62. Penalties and turnovers haunted the team with eight penalties costing them 80 yards and the costly fumble early in the second half.
Grand Haven moves on to face Rockford on the road next Friday, continuing their O-K Red conference play.