By Ken DeLaat
The Tiger faithful were ready. ‘The Jungle’ was filling up early and there was a sense of anticipation in the air surrounding the home opener for the Tigers.
Last season the first under Coach Darren Geraghty, Grant broke a 3 year playoff drought and with a senior-laden squad returning and a 40-0 shellacking of Shelby in the rear view mirror expectations were high.
The Big Rapids team opened with an overtime loss to Cadillac and came in looking for some consistency on offense after jumping to a 14-0 lead early on before being shut out the remainder of the game.
The opening kickoff proved a bit challenging to gather in and the Tigers began play on their own 23. 19 plays 8 ½ minutes and 77 yards later Jared Evans, on his 11th run of the drive punched it in from a yard out to give Grant the lead they would hold all night. The Tyler Naffziger conversion made it 7-0.
The Cardinals went 3 and out and the Tigers responded with a 48 yard drive ending with quarterback Trenton Throop lofted a pass into the hands of Josh Wright for the Tigers second score. Once again Naffziger converted and the hosts took a 14-0 lead.
Big Rapids started to move the ball on their next possession but penalties and a pair of incompletions forced a punt. Backed into their own territory by a pair of untimely flags and a 3rd down sack Grant yielded the ball and the Cardinals seemed poised to get on the board but an offensive interference call took them back and 2 plays later Grant regained possession.
Throop ran and passed the Tigers into scoring position as the half was winding down but Jackob Martinson stepped into the path of a possible scoring pass and snared the interception that saved a third TD.
From there the Cardinal QB Aaron Repke showed a preview of the second half putting together a furious pass oriented drive that included a 50 yard strike to Martinson but time ran out on the visitors and the teams headed for intermission.
The second half began with the teams exchanging possessions with Grant moving the ball deep into Cardinal territory late in the quarter before a 2 yard run by Evans and the Naffziger conversion delivered a 21-0 lead.
Big Rapids responded with a 21 yard return by Dorian Martin giving Repke room to maneuver as he ran and passed the Cards downfield hitting Braeden Childress with a scoring pass that got them on the board and broke a 7+ quarter shutout streak by the Tiger ‘D’.
Evans (96) and Throop (104) combined for 200 yards on the ground and T.J. Railing seemed to be all over the field on defense. Childress and Martinson each grabbed 4 passes from Repke who led his team in rushing with 31 tough yards against the Tiger defense.
The Tigers go back on the road next week to face central Montcalm. The Hornets will be trying to break a 6 game losing streak extending into last season after being bested by Tri County Thursday night. The Cards look to put win number one on the board when they host the Vikings next week.