HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — The West Ottawa football team finally got over the hump.
The Panthers accomplished something Friday night that hadn’t been done in 15 years: They defeated O-K Red Conference rival Rockford.
West Ottawa overcame a 16-point halftime deficit and beat the Rams 35-30 on homecoming night.>>Inside woodtv.com: Oct. 6 Football Frenzy
“The guys haven’t beaten Rockford in a while, so just the way they competed and the way they’ve been preparing, I’m really proud of their effort,” Panthers coach Ryan Oshnock said. “They wanted this one probably a little more than any other game and they just played so hard.”
West Ottawa last beat Rockford in 2002 and it appeared that trend would continue after falling behind 23-7 at the half.
However, the Panthers opened the second half with a bang as SeanKeese Townsend returned the kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown to jumpstart the rally.
“I knew we needed to gain some momentum,” Townsend said. “And that was my plan coming out of halftime.”
“That springboarded us,” Oshnock added. “We said we can’t score a 16-point play so let’s take it one play at a time. SeanKeese just did a fantastic job of staying inbounds on that and took it to the house.
“It was a one-play mentality, like chopping down a tree. It’s not going to come in one swing so let’s put a bunch of plays together.”
The Panthers continued to chip away at the deficit and then took the lead by scoring 28 unanswered points.
Quarterback Isaac Van Dyke hooked up with Xavier Wade for a 25-yard touchdown, and then Van Dyke plowed in from three yards out to give West Ottawa a 28-23 advantage.
Van Dyke found Blake Bosma alone in the end zone in the fourth quarter and it was 35-23.
“We just wanted to get a good team victory and we did that,” Van Dyke said. “We came out strong in the second half and we just battled all the way.”
A 69-yard pass play from quarterback Drew Bareno to Kip Cushman with six minutes remaining gave Rockford hope, but its comeback hopes were dashed in the final seconds after an interception by Liam Cavanaugh.
“They made plays when it came down to it,” Oshnock said. “We tried to put it on the defense’s back and they did a good job. This one is big for the team and it’s big for the community.”>>Inside woodtv.com: More Football Frenzy scores
With the victory, West Ottawa (6-1) also clinched a share of its first O-K Red championship since 2005 and qualified for the state playoffs.
“We think it’s one of the best conferences in the state of Michigan so to say that we’ve at least clinched a share, we’re really excited about that,” Oshnock said. “And then you get into the playoffs and it means you get to play an extra week of football.”
Maliq Thompson had a pair of first-half touchdowns for Rockford, which fell to 4-3 overall.
>>App users: Photos of West Ottawa vs. Rockford—Inside woodtv.com: