Cedar Springs outlasts Forest Hills Northern in battle for first place OK Bronze
Grand Rapids – The matchup Friday night between Cedar Springs and Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern featured a lot of black and blue in a showdown for first place in the OK Conference Bronze Division.
Both hard-hitting defenses dominated the action.
In the end, however, it was Cedar Springs that prevailed after slugging out a 14-8 victory against Northern, clinching a playoff berth for the Red Hawks and giving them a firm upper hand in the division.
"It was a lot tougher than a lot of people expected in this game," Cedar Springs coach Gus Kapolka said. "It was two good football teams playing for first place in the league, and it came right down to the end.
"It was a physical game on both sides of the ball. To get the sixth win and move into first place in the league, it’s nice."
The Red Hawks (6-1, 3-0) entered the matchup against Northern (6-1, 2-1) having allowed opponents less than two touchdowns per game. They clamped down on the host Huskies, whose high-powered offense had been averaging more than 40 points per contest, from the beginning.
In its most important game of the regular season, the swarming Cedar Springs defense sacked junior Jake Martin seven times, had seven other tackles for loss and had three interceptions.
"It feels good," Kapolka said of his team’s stunning performance on defense. "They came in averaging more than 40 points per game. I knew if we could hold them under 28, we’d have a chance. I had no idea we’d hold them under nine.
"Our defense has been solid all year. Our front seven guys really dictated the tempo."
Sophomore quarterback Collin Alvesteffer, who scored the deciding touchdown for the Red Hawks in the fourth quarter, picked off a fourth-down pass in the closing minutes of the game.
He also led an offense that did enough to hold off the Huskies.
Immediately following a timeout at the 5:14 mark of the fourth quarter, the Red Hawks decided to go for it on fourth and goal from the 1-yard line. Alvesteffer ran a bootleg, concealing the ball on his left hip as he rolled out to the wide side of the field and waited for senior running back Kaden Myers to deliver a critical block.
Alvesteffer outran the Huskies to the corner and stretched the football over the goal line, just inside the left pylon.
"I had the most confidence in my offensive line. I knew Kaden was going to seal the block on the end, and I just ran it in," he explained. "It was definitely exciting looking at all that green field. We were struggling running the other stuff."
The Red Hawks led 8-0 at halftime.
Myers had a 7-yard touchdown run off right tackle at the 4:19 mark of the second quarter. Teammate MavRick Cotton, a senior fullback, had a 51-yard run to put Cedar Springs in the red zone.
Alvesteffer added the two-point conversion run.
The Huskies tied it up midway through the third quarter on Martin’s 44-yard scoring pass to junior wide receiver Adam Farah, who hauled in a high-arcing, perfectly thrown bomb down the right sideline.
The same duo combined on a two-point conversion pass to knot the score.
"It was extremely tough," Alvesteffer said of knocking off Northern on its turf on homecoming. "We knew they had an explosive offense. It’s definitely the best opponent we’ve played all year."