Grandville stuns Hudsonville, nears playoffs
Hudsonville – All of the Grandville players sprinted toward the visiting stands Friday night to share in the exhilaration of defeating OK Red Division rival Hudsonville and likely clinching a state playoff berth.
They stood atop the brick wall, clinging to a chain-link fence while singing the school fight song.
The last time the Bulldogs rejoiced about a postseason appearance was 2006, but an at-large playoff berth seems all but assured following a 22-7 victory against Hudsonville in front of 5,012 fans in the regular-season finale.
"It means everything," Bulldogs senior running back Brian Cappiello said. "Not only to the guys in the group. I know it means a lot to our community and our alumni to be the first team in eight years to make the playoffs.
"It’s pretty special. It’s a big rivalry game. To come here and win and get in the playoffs, it feels awesome, I can’t explain it."
Grandville (5-4) awaits Sunday night’s confirmation of the playoff participants.
Its strength of schedule, including walloping West Ottawa, Grand Haven and Hudsonville by a combined 129-29 margin in its final three games, should put the Bulldogs in the playoffs.
First-year coach Eric Stiegel is all but certain his team is in.
"We’ve had our back up against the wall the last three weeks and we came out and fought," Stiegel said. "It should put us in. We’ll find out for sure Sunday night. It’s a great feeling, but now we want to get in and do some damage."
The Bulldogs did much of the damage against Hudsonville (5-4) in the first half.
Twice on fourth down in its opening series of the contest, Grandville went for it and converted. The second time, it came on fourth-and-goal from the 10 and culminated in a scoring pass from junior quarterback Ryan Koorndyk to Cappiello.
Nolan Meekhof, a junior running back, upped the lead to 14-0 at the 4:14 mark of the second quarter. He scored on a 13-yard run behind a powerful push from the right side of his offensive line. He also added the two-point run.
Koorndyk scored untouched on a 2-yard bootleg to the left side in the fourth quarter and threw the two-point conversion pass to Meekhof.
"We’re a lot better for a lot of reasons," Stiegel said of his team’s improvement throughout the season. "I think the kids have really bought into the process of preparing every week. Their picking the nuances up with the offense and the defense.
"I think they’ve let it loose a little bit and stopped worrying about this and that. They’re just going out and playing football and playing hard."
Hudsonville also has hopes of securing at-large bid in the state playoffs.
Its lone touchdown against Grandville came during an impressive drive at the outset of the second half. Senior running back Kyle Toth got an option pitch from senior quarterback Mason Opple and outran a defender 16 yards to the left pylon.
"We still have an opportunity to get in," Eagles coach Dave Lidgard said. "I told our guys the good news is we’re not collecting equipment, because there’s an outside shot. We don’t get any games off (in the OK Red).
"Our guys are holding out hope that maybe we’re playing next week."
Stiegel is confident the Bulldogs will be hitting the road in the postseason. He stood and watched with delight as his players serenaded their families and friends amid the postgame euphoria.
"It’s the best thing. I feel happy for these kids," he said. "It’s something special because this program hasn’t been in the playoffs since ’06. This group of seniors is always going to be special for me because they’re my first group here.
"They’ve tried to set the tone for what we want to become as a football program going forward."