**ARTICLE BY MICHAEL MARKOCH**
In what might have been the game of the night in West Michigan, the Reeths-Puffer Rockets out-slugged the Union Red Hawks 35-29 in an overtime thriller. The loss ended the Red Hawks’ undefeated start to the 2022 season.
Both teams certainly went through a feeling-out period in the first, as the game remained scoreless two-thirds of the way through the opening quarter. Then, Red Hawks’ quarterback Tommy Stevens found Jersey Brown for a 26-yard touchdown to get the ball rolling and give Union a 7-0 lead. However, the Rockets would respond with a Brody Johnson 21-yard touchdown run to even up the score, 7-7, at the end of the first quarter.
Rockets’ quarterback Brody Ross would give Puffer the lead with a 22-yard scramble, but a missed extra point kept the lead at six points, 13-7. Stevens would then find Brown once again for their second touchdown connection of the night, and the Red Hawks went into the locker room hanging on to a slight 14-13 advantage.
The two teams would go back-and-forth during the third quarter. Another Ross touchdown run and ensuing two-point conversion put the Rockets back in front by seven. Stevens answered with his third touchdown of the game, his first on the ground, to knot it back up at 21 with just over a quarter to play. Then, with 17 seconds left in the third quarter, Johnson ran for his second touchdown from 21 yards out to give Puffer a 29-21 lead entering the final frame.
The fourth quarter began as a defensive struggle. The Rockets were clinging to their one touchdown lead, and they were almost able to squeak out a win in regulation. However, Stevens and the Red Hawks had one final answer, as Stevens kept the ball and ran for a two-yard score with just 10 seconds remaining in the game. Stevens would tack on the necessary two-point conversion to send the game to overtime.
In overtime, the two teams play collegiate rules but with the ball at their opponent’s 10-yard line, rather than the 25-yard line. Reeths-Puffer started with the ball first and converted on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Ross to Tayte Vanderleest to give the Rockets the lead to begin the first overtime period.
But then, on the ensuing Union drive, controversy struck. The Red Hawks faced a fourth and goal from the 1-yard line and Stevens was able to punch the ball across the plane for what Union thought was the game-tying score. However, the referees declared that Union had too few players on the line of scrimmage at the time of the snap and wiped the score off the board. On the next play, Stevens was unable to connect with his final pass and the Rockets were able to pull off the thrilling win.
Stevens completed 14 of 20 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns, and he added 27 carries for 101 yards and two more touchdowns in the losing effort. Ross went 7 of 9 for 54 yards for Puffer and rushed for a pair of touchdowns as well. Johnson led all ball-carriers with 153 yards on 13 carries.
The Rockets move to 3-1 and now have to have a lot of confidence heading into next week’s matchup at Wyoming. Union suffers their first defeat and slip to 3-1 on the season, and it won’t get any easier for the Red Hawks as next week they will head up to Mona Shores to play the surging Sailors.