A novice power, Grand Rapids Christian, proved worthy upstart to an old school giant Saturday in Cincinnati. Even in defeat to Archbishop Moeller, the Eagles proved themselves worthy of preseason accolades, ultimately falling 42-34 to USA Today’s No. 12 team in the country.
GR Christian set the tone early, as Moeller had a hard time keeping up with their multi-threat, no-huddle offense. The Eagles led 24-14 at halftime. Senior QB Alex Van DeVusse had TD passes to his top three weapons — junior Drake Harris, junior Dwayne Barfield and senior tight end and CMU commitment Zach Crouch. In the first half Van DeVusse was 12-for-24 for 183 and the three TDs. Moeller was able to flush him out of the pocket and disrupt the Eagle’s rhythm in the second half, as Van DeVusse finished 18-of-40 for 282 yards, three TDs, three interceptions. After the intermission, Barfield was sidelined on crutches, Crouch rarely lined up at tight end and Harris had just one reception outside the flats, a leaping grab in traffic over the middle.
Grand Rapids Christian is now 1-1 and will play at dangerous, 2-0 Kenowa Hills on Friday, Sept. 7 then play host to Hudsonville before navigating a brutal O-K White schedule.
- Harris was one of three Big Ten commitments in the game. The two others were from Moeller seniors, linebacker Shane Jones, a future Spartan like Harris, and running back Keith Watkins, who will go to Northwestern. Harris finished with seven catches for 101 yards and 30-yard TD. At 6-4, 185 and the ability to go get the ball, he looked every party the big-time downfield receiver. The aforementioned catch across the middle looked entirely incongruous with anything like the “soft” label some have placed on Harris. Jones keyed a defense that didn’t allow the Eagles much of any running game, and had seven tackles and an interception. Watkins is a dynamic little back who rushed 20 times for 219 yards and two TDs. He took a screen pass for 79 yards and a TD — five Christian players missed tackles — in the opening minute of the second half, cutting the Eagles’ lead to 24-21.
- There could be at least another Big 10 recruit from this game. Tommy Doles, GR Christian’s 6-5, 245 junior lineman, already has an offer from Michigan, as well as Iowa State, where his cousin, Kyle Lichtenberg, plays on the offensive line. Doles is much different than some of the behemoth junior linemen we’ve already covered this season, like Zeeland West’s Jordan VanDort and Traverse City West’s Connor Hayes. He’s athletic with both quick feet and hands, and balance; excels with technique rather than brute strength. Still, he has a big butt, the frame to add good weight and when he got his heels down even Moeller’s biggest linemen were stoned by Doles. On the other side Doles, the son of long-time Channel 8 sports anchor Jack Doles, played with his hand down in the Eagles’ 3-4.
- Senior kicker Joel Schipper is a serious weapon for Grand Rapids Christian. He drilled field goals of 48 and 47 yards, and put his kickoffs out the back of the end zone. This season Schipper had made all nine of his PAT attempts.
- Conversely, Christian’s punt team was tragic. Moeller blocked a punt and recovered the ball in the end zone for their first touchdown, then got a piece of another one in the fourth quarter to get the ball back on the Eagles’ 12-yard-line. The ensuing touchdown gave Moeller its largest lead of the game, 42-27, with 9 minutes 22 seconds left in the fourth.
- Grand Rapids Christian has two future stars on the defensive side of the ball in sophomore lineman Juwan Jarnegan and sophomore linebacker Qi-ante Ewing.