In a game where points seemed as common as towheads amongst the 5,000 faithful in Zeeland Stadium, they were stressful and hard-earned when Zeeland East most needed them. They got ‘em. The Chix came through clutch in a 60-52 double OT win over next door neighbor and defending Division 4 state champion Zeeland East.
Zeeland East’s senior quarterback Michael Custer converted a six-yard, fourth down pass in the second OT to junior Zach Hill, for what would be the winning edge after West couldn’t, finally, score on their ensuing possession. To even get to the first overtime East needed a 29-yard field goal from senior Gabe Boss as regulation time expired, tying it 44-44. Until that point in the game, Boss hadn’t even attempted a PAT.
Zeeland East is now 2-0, Zeeland West 0-2.
- The top-ranked college prospects in the game were both in the junior class, East’s 6-0, 205 running back/linebacker Spencer Viening and West’s 6-6, 285 tight end/lineman Jordan VanDort. There’s a lot to like about Viening running the ball, because he’s patient with his blockers, has vision for space, the size and strength to break tackles, the speed to get into the second tier. He ran for 171 yards and two TDs. And, in a game where there was a lot of hitting up front but not much defense, Viening was good in pursuit and able to plug holes a couple times. Viening will end up a rare four-year starter for East. At the next level he could be a safety, running back or linebacker. Custer does a terrific job of sharing the ball in East’s spread, so Viening is just one of the Chix’ weapons. Senior Josh Blawkamp had 179 yards and a TD and senior Levii VanOrman is perfect for the spread he caught balls out of the backfield for scores of 83 and five yards. Custer finished 19-of-33 for 281 yards and five TDs.
- VanDort played all over for ZW — both defensive ends, defensive tackle, special teams and tight end. He had just two catches, but both were huge. VanDort took a pass from junior QB Jordon Lambert 33 yards for the Dux first score, then went 47 yards to set up West’s go-ahead TD with under two minutes to play in regulation. VanDort is obviously a huge target, and has soft hands. There were two catchable balls thrown his way, and he brought in both of them. His best plays defensively came on the interior, where twice VanDort collapsed the line and found the ball-handler behind it leading to gang tackles. As a tight end, Jordan is already too big for the position for many schemes, and he doesn’t block much passion (though good speed when he pulled) so the seemingly natural move for an athlete of his size to offensive tackle might not be as obvious and easy as it was with a prospect like Oregon’s Jake Fisher, who similarly played just tight when at Traverse City West. If one had to make the call today, and it’s hard because VanDort is such a raw talent that can be molded in various directions, he projects as a Tyler Hoover-type defensive tackle.
- If there’s a better gig for a high school running back than fullback in the Wing-T, it’s fullback in John Shillito‘s Wing-T. For Zeeland West that job belongs to 5-11, 175 junior Marcus Lambert. He ran 17 times for 307 yards and five TDs. Three of them came in a third-quarter blitz, as he went on scoring runs of 58, 58 and 55 yards, to give West a 38-27 lead headed into the fourth (his other touchdowns covered 50 and 28 yards).
- While Lambert had the highlight plays, the senior next to him Braden Werley got the tough yards and first downs on third and fourth, while also playing safety, returning kicks and punting.
- West’s defense has obviously struggled. In two games they’ve given up 119 points. In the entire 2011 regular season the Dux allowed 132. The good news is, the teams that put them at 0-2 are the two strongest entries on Zeeland West’s schedule. They start O-K Green play Friday, Sept. 7 at Byron Center. Zeeland East’s rout is tougher, with Muskegon, Kenowa Hills and early surprise Mona Shores all awaiting in the O-K Black.