The rain continued, halftime Homecoming activities had ended, and West Ottawa was down 23-7. Fans began to leave even before the second half kickoff, and the huge Black Hole section had lost some of their impressive energy.
That changed in 13 seconds.
Sr. SeanKesse Townsend moved a few steps to his left to field the Rockford kick at the goal line near the West Ottawa sideline. Townsend immediately followed upback Jr. Alijah Wood toward the center of the field.
At the 18-yard line, Townsend ran through a Rockford arm tackle, then burst through a hole created by the excellent blocking of his teammates. To Townsend’s left, Jr. Andrew Pratt and Sr. Tucker Fritz effectively sealed off two Rockford defenders, forcing them upfield, eliminating them from the play. Closer to Townsend, Wood crushed a defender who could not recover in time to affect the play. Jr. Aric Varenhorst got just enough of the closest defender to push him past Townsend. At the 25-yard line, Sr. Ben Burns shielded a Ram, preventing a possible tackle, and at the 30-yard line, Townsend streaked by Jr. Jaiden Luna, who was completing an impressive pancake block.
After clearing the main wave of defenders, Townsend was on a collision course with the Rockford kicker at the 35-yard line, but Townsend firmly planted his inside foot on the wet turf and abruptly changed directions, bursting past the hopeless would-be tackler.
From there, Townsend outraced the defense and completely changed the tone of the Homecoming game.
Obviously, the Panthers were not done scoring. Soon after, Jr. Quarterback Isaac Van Dyke connected with Xavier Wade in the end zone to bring the Panthers within two. Van Dyke then found his way into the end zone for a three-yard rushing touchdown to pull ahead 28-23. Later, Frosh. Blake Bosma hauled in a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter from Van Dyke to extend the Panther lead to 35-23.
A Rockford touchdown tightened the score at 35-30, keeping the Homecoming crowd on the edge of their sears.
The Panthers were forced to punt late in the game, and the Rams began their final drive. As they tried to march their way down the field, the Panther defense was prepared. Sr. Alejandro Ferrer sacked Rockford quarterback Drew Bareno to give the home crowd a loud roar.
On the last play for the Rams offense, Bareno looked deep and was intercepted by high-flying Sr. Liam Cavanaugh.
This sealed the deal for the Panthers and gave West Ottawa their first win over Rockford in 15 years, also clinching their first share of the O-K Red championship in 12 years moving to 6-1 on the season
The Panthers will venture to Jenison on October 13 and finish their regular season against the Grandville Bulldogs on October 20.