East Grand Rapids continues torrid play, defeats G.R. Christian 28-7 in key OK Gold Division game
Grand Rapids – Connor Davis knows it didn’t happen a year ago when he was a backup running back at East Grand Rapids. He’s equally as sure it didn’t happen when he was a sophomore two seasons ago or when he played at the middle school level.
You have to go back quite a while before the last time Davis returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
"Maybe when I was in the fourth or fifth grade," Davis said. "I don’t know. But it’s been a long time."
Whenever it was, it took 12 seconds for Davis to put the Pioneers on the board in Friday’s 28-7 victory over rival Grand Rapids Christian that leaves the Pioneers squarely in the driver’s seat for an O-K Conference Gold Division title.
The Pioneers (6-0), ranked No. 6 by State Champs, are 3-0 in the division. Christian (5-1), ranked No. 15, fell to 2-1 and in a tie with Grand Rapids South Christian for second place.
Davis returned the opening kickoff back 93 yards, added two more rushing touchdowns and nearly added a third to lead East Grand Rapids.
The 5-foot-10, 170-pound Davis, who would have had a fourth touchdown if he hadn’t fumbled into the end zone after a long run, said the long kickoff return was a blur.
"It happened quick," he said. "I caught the ball and the next thing I know I’m in the end zone. It happened real quick."
The return was only the start of a big night for Davis, who rushed for 179 yards on 26 carries. He finished off the win with second half touchdown runs of 10 and three yards after Christian trailed 14-7 at the half.
East Grand Rapids coach Casey Longo said Davis never sulked while spending his junior season in a limited role. While some players might have sulked, David threw himself into improving.
"Not for a kid like Connor," Longo said how tough it was for Davis to come into the season with a fresh outlook. "He’s a team guy. He knew he’d get a chance and that he’d make the most of it."
Michael Malewitz scored the Pioneer’s other touchdown on a 30-yard run that snapped a 7-7 tie with 8:52 left in the third quarter.
In addition to the fine play of Davis and his offense, the defense posted another gem. The Pioneers entered Friday giving up just eight points per game with back-to-back shutouts. East Grand Rapids has now given up just two touchdowns in its last 14 quarters. The defense was expected to be tested by an Eagle offense that was averaging 45 points per game.
Senior linebacker Max Lundeen, the lone starter back from a year ago, has improved in virtually every game. Grand Rapids Christian quarterback Isaac Dykema, who entered the game having thrown for 1,700 yards, did complete 18 of 27 passes for 210 yards and the Eagles added another 135 yards on the ground. But when it came time to put points on the board, Christian managed only a 40-yard touchdown pass from Dykema to James Patrick.
"We knew how the defense went, we would go," Lundeen said. "We knew what we’d have this year even though other people didn’t know.
"The defense picks each other up. If the line isn’t having a good game, the linebackers pick them up. If they don’t play well, the backs step up. We work off each other."