The Grand Ledge football team could not pick apart Holland West Ottawa again in their rematch on Friday.
West Ottawa’s determined effort made sure the Panthers were the ones advancing in the Division 1 state playoffs.
West Ottawa edged the visiting Comets 21-14 in the district opener Friday.
“We made a ton of mistakes. They played fast. They played strong,” Grand Ledge coach Matt Bird said. “They did a nice job. Credit to them.”
West Ottawa (8-2) earned a rematch at OK Red Conference rival Rockford in next week’s district final. Rockford (8-2) defeated Traverse City West on Friday.
The Comets, who beat West Ottawa 31-10 in Week 2 behind 235 rushing yards and two touchdowns from junior Joe Reverman, ended their season with a 7-3 record.
Reverman rushed for 189 yards on 28 carries on Friday, but only one touchdown.
Grand Ledge lost two turnovers inside West Ottawa territory and missed a 42-yard field goal.
A running-into-the punter call on Grand Ledge with 1 minute, 50 seconds remaining sealed the outcome.
“We were going after the kick,” Bird said. “We had to burn some timeouts early because we had trouble with some formation stuff. We had ourselves down to that one timeout. Because of that, I was trying to change field and go for that punt block. It’s a judgment call. (The official) made the call he saw. That’s what we have to live with.”
West Ottawa immediately answered a Grand Ledge scoring drive to grab a 21-14 lead. The Panthers needed just 1½ minutes to get a 31-yard touchdown reception from Ryan Verhelst.
Verhelst juggled the pass from quarterback Trevor VanTubbergen before he secured it, spun away from a Grand Ledge tackle and sprinted into the end zone.
Grand Ledge pulled even for the second time, going 90 yards in six plays to score on backup quarterback Ben Cornell’s 5-yard run.
West Ottawa went ahead 14-7 with 49.8 seconds remaining in the third quarter when Verhelst caught a 27-yard heave from the brother of Western Michigan University starting quarterback Tyler VanTubbergen in the end zone.
Grand Ledge evened the score at 7-7 with 1:58 remaining in the first half. Reverman started the 65-yard, nine-play drive with a 22-yard run and finished it with a 14-yard touchdown run.
The Panthers took a 7-0 lead with 9:09 remaining in the first quarter when running back James Lacy followed his fullback and sprinted untouched for a 96-yard touchdown.
The touchdown came one play after West Ottawa’s Alex Zimmerman intercepted a bomb from Grand Ledge’s Jalen Brady at the Panthers 4-yard line.