BIG LAKE — Take away a couple of big plays by Big Lake and the final score could have been different.
Unfortunately for the Grand Rapids High School football team, Big Lake used several big plays Thursday night in the high school football opener for both teams and it was the difference in the game as the Hornets came away with a 25-6 victory over the Thunderhawks in action at Big Lake.
“You take three plays away and it’s a different ball game,” said Grand Rapids coach Greg Spahn. “We ran 71 offensive plays and we just had breakdowns at bad times. We have to find a way to fix those little things. And, we have to stop being close and start being there.”
Things didn’t start out well for Grand Rapids as Hornets star DeAndre Hill picked off a Trent Johnson pass at the Big Lake 15 yard line and he scooted 85 yards the other way to ruin the Thunderhawks’ first drive of the season. The extra point kick was good and Big Lake had a 7-0 lead with 9:39 remaining in the first quarter.
Grand Rapids recovered a Hill fumble later in the first quarter at its own 42 yard line and the Thunderhawks drove into Big Lake territory until the drive stalled and Grand Rapids turned the ball over on downs at the Big Lake 36.
The Hornets used the big play to score their second touchdown with 11 seconds left in the initial quarter. The touchdown came when quarterback Brandon Stern found Jack Iverson on a 49-yard scoring pass. The extra point was blocked but Big Lake had a 13-0 advantage.
The Thunderhawks responded with a fine drive, using the hard running of Brock Holm. However, Grand Rapids was able to reach the Big Lake 17 before it was forced to turn the ball over on downs.
The Hornets responded by scoring its third touchdown of the evening, driving 90 yards in the process. The score came when quarterback Stern broke free for a 13-yard scoring run. The extra point kick was again blocked by the Thunderhawks but Big Lake led 19-0 with 46 seconds left in the half.
Grand Rapids came out firing on all cylinders in the third quarter. After forcing a Big Lake punt and getting good field position at the 50, Grand Rapids drove in for what proved to be its only touchdown of the game when Johnson connected with Dawson Broberg on a four-yard scoring pass. The extra point try was no good but Grand Rapids cut into the Big Lake lead, trailing 19-6 with plenty of time to play.
After forcing another Hornet punt, the Thunderhawks started from their own 18 yard line and drove deep into Big Lake territory using a 28-yard pass from Johnson to Broberg, and a couple of nice runs by Caden Hofstad. But once again Grand Rapids came away with no points as it turned it over on downs in the red zone.
Big Lake took advantage of a Grand Rapids turnover in the fourth quarter to score its last points. They came when Hill reached the end zone on a 21-yard run. The run for the two-point conversion failed but Big Lake led 25-6 with 7:19 left in the game. There would be no more scoring as the Hornets took the win.
“Brock Holm ran for well over 100 yards and he ran his tail off,” Spahn said. “We asked him to move to nose tackle from a linebacker spot because we thought it would help the team more and he did it. I don’t know if he came off the field and I just can’t say enough good things about him. He just ran hard and ran a lot.”
Spahn said the Thunderhawks didn’t have an offensive penalty in the game which is outstanding being it was the first game. He added the ball security also was good. He praised the play of Johnson, Hofstad and Dane Kennedy, along with Holm.
“Big Lake is a good team and they are in our class so it was a good test for us,” Spahn explained. “Everybody is disappointed in the results but I was proud of how the kids played. We have fight and we have kids who want to compete and who have a lot of pride. They have a lot of love for each other and their school and it shows.
“We are not too far off from putting it together and having something pretty good and hopefully that is going to be Friday.”
The Thunderhawks will be on the road next Friday for a game against Duluth Denfeld, who lost big to Aitkin on Thursday in its opener.
Grand Rapids 0 6 0 0—6
Big Lake 13 6 0 6—25
BL-DeAndre Hill 85-yard interception return (Josh Hunt kick)
BL-Jack Iverson 49-yard pass from Brandon Stern (Kick blocked)
BL-Brandon Stern 13-yard run (Kick blocked)
GR-Dawson Broberg 4-yard pass from Trent Johnson (Kick failed)
BL-DeAndre Hill 21-yard run (Run failed)