West Ottawa traveled more than 80 miles to Grand Ledge Friday night, then got off to a rough start. After ten minutes, WO was down 13 – 0. Lightning and soaking rain delayed and eventually postponed the game.
Sr. Quarterback Caleb McNitt described Friday night as “a frustrating experience. The drive was 2 hours both ways and we were in Grand Ledge for 6 hours and only played 10 minutes of the game. Not to mention playing awful, too.”
The Panthers faced a huge challenge, down 13 points and facing a second bus trip to Grand Ledge. They had to find within themselves the mental toughness to overcome the negative situatin.
As frustrating as the weather delay and the bus rides were, according to McNitt, they were “a blessing in disguise, because the team came out with a lot more passion and fire on Saturday.”
Mental toughness was important to the Panthers, but so was Sr. fullback and linebacker Mason Dekker. Dekker, who finished with 9 tackles, a sack, an interception and three touchdowns, was a huge part of WO’s 28-21 victory.
Early in the 3rd quarter, Grand Ledge intercepted McNitt’s pass and brought it back for a touchdown. Momentum was in the Comets favor. Shortly after, Grand Ledge was driving toward another score, but Dekker came up with the biggest play of the game, going airborne and snagging a pass attempt at the WO 35-yard line. Dekker streaked toward the sideline, then cut back to the middle of the field, pulling out of an attempted tackle. A Comet tried to wrap him up at the 5-yard line, but Dekker carried him into the endzone, completing his 65-yard return. The momentum now belonged to WO.
Sr. Running Back Christian Rodino described the moment as “ the biggest play of the game. Watching him go up and snag that ball was the coolest thing I’ve ever watched. It gave me goose bumps, and from there on out I knew we were going to win.”
Dekker was equally impressive on the defensive side of the ball, racking up nine tackles including two sacks. Dekker and the Panthers limited Grand Ledge to only 222 yards of offense.
Dekker also came up huge as a running back, with a 5-yard touchdown run in the 2nd quarter and a 7-yard touchdown run with only 3:24 left in the game to put the Panthers ahead for good.
WO plays next Friday night at home against Kenowa Hills. Kenowa Hills is off to a 1-1 start similar to the Panthers, losing their opener but bouncing back in Week 2.