ZEELAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Clinging to a two point lead at halftime, Zeeland West turned to its defense Friday night to knock off top-ranked Comstock Park 38-28.
Comstock Park got the scoring going on a long, opening drive in heavy rain to start the game. Monterio Smith caught an 18-yard touchdown from Pat Naughton on 4th and 17 to give Comstock Park a 6-0 lead.
After Zeeland West went three-and-out, Comstock Park drove again, this time scoring on a 12-yard pass to Nick Turowski. After another failed 2-point try, the Panthers had a 12-0 lead with 1:29 left in the first quarter.
Zeeland West got into the game on the next offensive play. After a great kick return, Casey Brinks handed the ball to Darius Perisee, who took it 50 yards for the score to cut Comstock Park’s lead in half with 1:08 left in the first quarter.
As the rain stopped, both teams seemed to struggle to move the ball, with drives stalling for most of the second quarter.
Perisee finally broke free again for a 53-yard touchdown with 1:35 left in the second quarter. Brinks hit Connor Chupailo for the 2-point conversion to give Zeeland West a 14-12 lead.
Comstock Park answered with trickery. Pat Naughton threw to Smith along the sideline, who then lofted the ball in the air to JoJo Whitley, for a 65-yard touchdown on a double pass. The Panthers capped it off with a 2-point conversion jump pass to Smith to take a 20-14 lead with 1:18 left in the second quarter.
With a full helping of timeouts left, Zeeland West pushed the ball down the field in the closing minute of the half, reaching the 14-yard line with just seconds left. Brinks finished off the drive by finding Jayk Slager in the end zone with 0.6 seconds left. Tyler Thompson ran the 2-point conversion in, giving Zeeland West a 22-20 lead at halftime.
Then it was time for the Zeeland West defense to take over.
For the next 20 minutes of play, the Dux clamped down – keeping Comstock Park’s high-powered offense out of the end zone.
After a scoreless third quarter, Dakota Geurink and Tyler Thompson both scored on short fourth quarter touchdown runs to put Zeeland West in control 38-20.
Comstock Park tried for a late comeback. Nick Turowski caught a 26-yard touchdown pass with 3:06 left. After the 2-point conversion it was 38-28.
Zeeland West recovered the following onside kick, but then fumbled on the first play of the drive at midfield.
Once again the defense held, forcing a turnover on downs. The game was called with 1:25 left due to lightning.
“I thought that Gregg (Hoogland) and Ross (Vredevoogd) did a great job at halftime, along with the other defense coaches, in terms of making some adjustments,” Zeeland West Coach John Shillito said after the game. “But I think the big thing is we did a better job of keeping the ball in front of us and making tackles in the second half.”
The Dux ran the ball for 417 yards. Perisee accounted for more than half of that total, racking up 222 yards on 13 carries – an average of 17 yards per rush.
“This felt like a finals game for us,” Perisee said after the game. “(We learned) we need to stick together and work as a team to come out on top.”
Naughton, a three-year starter at quarterback for Comstock Park, had a big game in the loss. He threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns.
The loss is Comstock Park’s first of the season. They will likely lose their No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press Division 4 poll.
Zeeland West remains undefeated, and could rise from No. 3 in the Associated Press Division 3 poll.
“It’s a good win moving forward,” Shillito said. “(Comstock Park) played a terrific football game. I’m really impressed with their level of physicality.”