Photo courtesy of Marie Bova Photography

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The Hudsonville Eagles and West Ottawa Panthers played a fantastic Week 9 football game last Friday night. The MHSAA Playoff Selection Committee gifted fans across the area with the opportunity to see these two teams square off again on Friday night in the first round of the Division 1 playoffs. Similar to a week ago, these two teams put on a show. This one was more offensively oriented, as 91 combined points were scored in a 49-42 Eagles victory.

Hudsonville wasted no time to make a big play as they returned the opening kickoff 81 yards. They capped off their drive with a eight yard score by Mason Piper to give them a 7-0 edge. The Panthers would respond with a seven-play, eighty-four yard drive of their own. Isaac Van Dyke found Max Voet on a 14-yard pass to even the score.

Scoring continued throughout the first quarter as Bryce Herrema’s four-yard run capped off a seven-play, seventy-five yard drive by the Eagles to give them a seven point lead. It lasted only two minutes however, as Van Dyke connected with Matt Cox on a 11-yard strike to even the score at fourteen.

A Jordan Wenzel run of sixteen yards gave Hudsonville the lead once again before the quarter ended. The second quarter saw a much slower pace offensively, as there was only one touchdown. Mason Piper punched it in from four yards out with 1:37 left in the half. The extra point gave Hudsonville a 28-14 halftime lead.

The third quarter was all West Ottawa, as they stormed back to tie this game up. Van Dyke found Cox again, this time for a six-yard strike to cut the lead in half. They would draw even with the Eagles when the defense made a huge play. Marty Gayten recovered the fumble and ran into the end zone for the defensive touchdown for West Ottawa, tying the game at 28 entering the final quarter of play.

After an interception by Jack Baker, the Eagles were in prime position to strike at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Drew Martinie finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown run to give the Eagles the lead back. This was the first of three straight touchdowns for Hudsonville, establishing a strong lead. Bryce Ouding scored the next two touchdowns, as he ran the ball two and six yards respectively to give the Eagles a 49-28 advantage with 8:51 to play.

Van Dyke and West Ottawa were not done in this one, as they needed less than two minutes to respond. He found Cox for a third touchdown, this one a five yard strike. After a long drive by the Eagles, West Ottawa got the football back down by fourteen. They embarked on a lengthy drive of their own, covering nine plays and eating up the clock. They scored with 0:34 seconds left when Van Dyke found Koby Hescott for a touchdown. They still trailed by seven, and so they elected to onside kick. The kick was recovered by the Eagles who could then kneel the remaining time off of the clock.

Hudsonville’s improbable turnaround continues, as they now advance to the District Finals for the first time since 2015. They will aim for their first District Title since 2014, when they ultimately lost in the Regional Finals. Much like in 2014, after defeating West Ottawa they are set to take on the Rockford Rams. Unlike that matchup however, the game will be played in Hudsonville. Back in Week 7, the Rams got the best of the Eagles in a 13-7 affair.