Photo Courtesy of Lou Murray.
To see the game in pictures click here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/45681226@N02/albums/72157710619709003
The summer practices have been completed and it was time for Memorial Field (home of the East Grand Rapids Pioneers) to once again play host to some incredible student athletes. Thursday would see the DUX of Zeeland West make the 50 minute drive to battle the Pioneers of East.
These teams finished at or near the top of their respective conferences last year (Dux 2nd OK Green 5-1 and East T-1st OK Gold 5-1), so it seemed natural that they would meet in 2019. Little did the fans know that the first ever meeting between the two perennial playoff teams would become an instant classic. Mother Nature wanted to make a little noise herself and with the help of a little rain and a LOT of lightning the game would eventually be postponed midway through the 3rd quarter. The score was tied at 14 so only a few fans made the early exit, most wanted to stay for the conclusion. Eventually it was announced that the game would resume on Friday at 1:00pm.
Throughout both days, each team battled like heavy weight boxers. Punch and counter punch as neither team could pull away from the other. 7 points would be the largest margin as both teams offense would have an answer after their defense yielded a touchdown.
Zealand West Coach John Shillito would be relying on Jr Quarterback Carson Gulker to make the on the field decisions DUX have been so effective with in the past. But a new wrinkle for these DUX, this Gulker kid can throw the ball. The first play from scrimmage was surprisingly a designed pass play. Although not successful, it made several in attendance take note. The typically methodical running team might actually put the ball in the air.
The DUX scored first on a Jr. Chase Peddie 7 yard run. The 2-point conversion would fail and the DUX would enjoy a 6-0 lead mid way through the 1st quarter.
East would wait until the 2nd quarter to answer with a 10 yard pass from Sr. David Lime to Sr. Josh Weiss. Classmate Henry Wassink would give the Pioneers the lead with the extra point. 7-6 East would take the 1 point advantage into the locker room for the halftime break.
The DUX would take the lead back in the 3rd with a 35 yard pitch and catch from Gulker to Sr. Evan Eding. Gulker would run in the 2-point try to bring the score to 14-7 in favor of the DUX. Not even 3 game clock minuets later the Casey Longo coached Pioneers would tie the score with a Sr. John Shelton 2yd touchdown run. Again Wassink would split the uprights and the game would be tied at 14 all.
Mother Nature would take over before another play could begin. Several spectacular lightning bolts flashed across the sky causing the game to be delayed and eventually postponed until the next afternoon.
Day 2 of the battle by Reeds Lake saw the DUX retake the lead in the 4th quarter. Eding would power his way across the goal line from one yard out. The 2-point try would again be unsuccessful and the DUX advantage would be just 6 (20-14).
The Pioneers would again take the lead just 2 minuets later thanks in part to a tremendous 25yd touchdown run by Sr. Robbie Stuursma. Wassink would again be pure with his foot, giving the East fans a lot to cheer about. The home team would be in front by just 1 point 21-20 with just over 7 minuets to play.
Zeeland West would score again when Peddie would carry the ball across the goal line on a 1 yard plunge. The 2-point conversion never left the possession of Gulker as he again ran it in making the score 28-21 DUX.
East would get the ball back with 2:30 left in the game and 61 yards away from the end zone. Lime would again take to the sky finding Weiss for a 12 yard pass bringing the ball across the mid field stripe. Lime would again try a pass play, this time the target was Sr. Jack Mundell. Completed, it would have gone for 26 yards putting East just outside the red zone. However, DUX Jr. Travis Vredeveld read the play perfectly and was able to jump in front of Mundell and intercept the would be crowd pleaser.
The DUX would simply need a first down to secure the victory. The Pioneer Defense was not going to let that happen. Forcing the DUX to go for a 4th down conversion near their own 18 yard line. The Defense stood tall and the DUX would turn the ball over on downs, just 18 yards away from the East end zone. The clock on the score board had enough time for just one play. East needed a touchdown, then a decision regarding the point after could ensue. Lime sent 3 wide to his right and 1 wide left. Shelton remained in the backfield to keep at least two linebackers near the line of scrimmage. The DUX put 4 men on the line, 2 linebackers and dropped 5 men back near the goal line. Lime would target Sr. Aiden Stadel in the back corner of the end zone but the pass was broken up by DUX QB/DB Gulker and time would expire. The final score would show DUX 28 Pioneers 21.
East Grand Rapids :
Lime 10/15 95 yds TD INT, Shelton 18/95yds TD, Weiss 6-63 yds TD, Stuursma 11 tackles 3 Assists
Gulker 2/9 58yds TD & (2) 2-point conv. Ending 19/99 TD & 35yd TD rec. Geurink 2nd half +75 yds rushing and very timely carries.
What a finish to an incredible show of talent by some of the areas best student athletes. Look for both teams to have very successful seasons.
The DUX (1-0) will host GR Christian (0-1) on Friday Sept. 6. We will be broadcasting that game LIVE.
East (0-1) will host the Huskies of F.H.N. (0-1) on Friday Sept 6. That game also will be LIVE on MSR.