On Homecoming at Harper Creek, football is king.
That much is obvious when you see six football players on the 10-man Homecoming King court.
And the Beavers showed again why they are the reigning kings of the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East Division as Harper Creek defeated Marshall, 41-14, in this Homecoming Game at Beaver Stadium on Friday.
Beavers coach Ed Greenman was pleased with the way his team played, especially with all the festivities that generally surround Homecoming week.
“This was a tough game for us because it was Homecoming and it was against Marshall, our rival and a traditionally great program. And because it was Homecoming, we had a lot of distractions all week and we had six kids on the court who weren’t able to focus until right before the game,” Greenman said. “But we won and this was a big one. An arch-rival game, both teams 4-2 going into it and we are just pleased we took another step forward.”
With the win, Harper Creek improves to 5-2 and stays in first place in the SMAC East at 5-0. The Beavers end the season on the road with games at Coldwater and Battle Creek Central, two teams that went into Friday’s action both winless on the year.
The Beavers have won the SMAC East two straight seasons and now is looking at gaining a third straight title.
“We started with Portage Central and Lakeshore, two good programs, and we stumbled in those first two games. But the kids stayed together and now we have won five in a row. We have two left, if we can win these last two, it will be a third in a row winning a league championship and that was our goal,” Greenman said. “So this was a step in the right direction and puts us in the driver’s seat with two games left in the league.”
Harper Creek dominated the game on the ground early and scored two touchdowns quickly. On the Beavers’ first drive, Harper Creek’s Kasey Carson broke free for a 78-yard run and was tackled on the one yard line. One play later, Carson ran in for the first score of the game.
The second time Harper Creek had the ball it finished off a drive with a 24-yard touchdown run by Connor Bauserman to make it 14-0 with 4:39 still left in the first quarter.
Marshall responded with an impressive drive that resulted in a 65-yard touchdown pass from Danny Welke to Jesse Bouwens to cut the lead to 14-7.
But the Beavers came up with yet another big play the next time they had the ball when Trevor Johnson hit Zach Testolin for an 88-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-7.
On the three early touchdown drives, Harper Creek had huge chunk plays as Marshall couldn’t come up with the needed stops, while the first score came after a key early fumble by the Redhawks.
Those kinds of mistakes played big according to Marshall coach Jim Hendershot.
“We missed a few things, we missed tackles, dropped a couple balls, missed a few blocks. It was a game of us missing some things that we are capable of doing and that’s frustrating,” Hendershot said. “We aren’t taking anything from Harper. Harper is good, but we can tackle better and we can make some plays. Told them at halftime, big players make big plays and we can make big plays – we just didn’t tonight.”
After Harper Creek’s Carson came up with an interception, the Beavers went on a 11-play, 91-yard scoring drive that ended on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to Bauserman to make it 28-7 with 4:03 left in the half.
Bauserman would score again early in the second half on a touchdown run from three yards out to make it 35-7 for the Beavers.
Then Harper Creek would score a final time on an unusual play that had Johnson finding Testolin for a long pass inside the 20, but Testolin would fumble the ball before scoring, only to see Anthony McNichols pick up the loose ball and run it in the rest of the way for the score to make it 41-7.
For the game, Harper Creek dominated on the ground with 283 yards as a team to 60 for Marshall.
The Beavers’ Carson finished with 212 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown as Bauserman added 51 yards with two touchdowns, plus another score through the air.
Johnson passed for 213 yards for Harper Creek with Testolin getting 140 yards receiving.
“We threw the ball OK, we would have liked to throw the ball a little more. But we were able to run the ball well and our offense scored points. That was good because our offense had been struggling, so to put up 41 points is good,” Greenman said.
Marshall added a late touchdown when Welke hit Chase Bennett for a 31-yard pass to cut the lead to 41-14.
The Redhawks’ Tony Wimberly added 75 yards on 17 carries with Welke getting 269 yards passing as Bouwens had five catches for 121 yards receiving.
Marshall falls to 4-3 with the loss, but still has something to play for as the Redhawks hope to get wins in their last two games to grab a playoff spot.
“We have players that can make plays, we just have to do that. When we can do that, we aren’t too bad,” Hendershot said. “If we can get this figured out, pick up two wins, we’re in. So we are in playoff mode now. It can be done and it should be done.”