Byron Center gives Hamilton first loss

Byron Center wide receiver Brayden Smith makes a 26-yard touchdown catch.

HAMILTON, Mich. (WOOD) — Byron Center (5-1) ran for more than 500 yards Friday night en route to a 54-32 win over Hamilton (5-1).

Early on Hamilton gave the homecoming crowd a lot to cheer about. Kyle Brinkhuis scored on a short run early in the first quarter.

Hamilton fans Caleb and Jacob Topp celebrate Hamilton's first-half touchdowns.
Hamilton fans Caleb and Jacob Topp celebrate Hamilton’s first-half touchdowns.

After a stop on defense, Hamilton scored again on a trick play when Kaleb Moore threw to Teghan McMahon, giving Hamilton a 12-0 lead with 2:53 left in the first quarter.

But then Byron Center’s defense stood strong – keeping Hamilton off the scored for nearly two full quarters.

A big turning point came midway through the second quarter. Hamilton, leading 12-6, was driving again looking to score. Byron Center’s JT Kurnat intercepted Keaton Mudd’s pass at the 2-yard line.

Starting just outside the end zone, Bulldog quarterback Zac Saltzgaber took off on a 49-yard run. Six plays later, he capped off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to give Byron Center its first lead, 13-12.

“It was a big part of the game, because if we don’t get out of there we’re punting out of the end zone,” Byron Center coach Bill Allan said about the 98-yard drive. “We got out of there on the first play, so it was a good play.”

Saltzgaber added another touchdown run just before halftime to give Byron Center a 20-12 lead at the break.

“I’m really proud of our kid’s response,” Allan said. “We didn’t really panic, we gave up the 12 early, and our kids were very business like, even at halftime. We made a couple of changes and they were very acceptant of that and understood that it is a four quarter game, so you’ve just gotta stick to your guns for four quarters and see what will happen.”

What happened is Saltzgaber became unstoppable in the second half. The Bulldog quarterback ended the game with 170 yards rushing and five total touchdowns, including a two-yard run late in the third quarter that gave Byron Center a 32-18 lead. The Bulldogs never looked back after that.

Running back Shane Tagg added 164 yards and a 50-yard touchdown.

 Byron Center running back Shane Tagg runs for a 50-yard touchdown.

Byron Center running back Shane Tagg runs for a 50-yard touchdown.

The Bulldogs ran for 508 yards, nearly twice Hamilton’s rushing total of 263 yards.

Tagg said after Friday’s win that Byron Center believes they can win the OK-Green title.

“(This win) really gives us a big boost of confidence for winning the conference this year,” Tagg said. “We haven’t done that in what seems like a while. With our class this year, the senior class, I know we can finish it and do what we need to do.”

Hamilton running back Kyle Brinkhuis led the way for the Hawkeyes, rushing for 84 yards and three touchdowns.

Hamilton quarterback Keaton Mudd threw for 60 yards and two interceptions.

Both teams will have a chance to clinch a playoff spot next week. Hamilton travels to Zeeland West while Byron Center hosts Holland for homecoming.