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Conversions key Zeeland West's region win

Football   | Brian VanOchten

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Zeeland – The Zeeland West football team survived a close call to claim a Division 3 regional championship despite its opponent scoring the same number of touchdowns as the Dux for the second consecutive week.

The simple difference? It's what happens immediately following touchdowns.

The Dux, ranked fifth in Sports Champs Network's top 25 poll, held off Lowell, 30-27, on Friday on its home turf by executing what West coach John Shillito and his players refers to as their “3-yard offense.”

“To get a two-point conversion is just like another touchdown for us,” Dux junior quarterback Casey Brinks said. “We don't really practice for two-point conversions. It's just a normal package. We just act like it's a normal touchdown.”

The norm for the defending state champion Dux (12-0) has been winning tight matchups.

They defeated Stevensville Lakeshore, 30-28, last week, stopping a two-point try on defense in the fourth quarter to preserve the win. They converted their first three two-point conversions against the Red Arrows.

Brinks teamed up with junior running back Dakota Geurink on a 56-yard touchdown pass on their first series of the game. A two-point run by Brinks, who somersaulted into the end zone while he absorbed a hit at the goal line, put the Dux ahead 8-0 in a contest they never trailed, although it stayed close throughout.

In the second quarter, Geurink made two brilliant cuts up the middle to score on a 9-yard run. Brinks put the ball on his left hip and added the two-point bootleg run, stretching the advantage to 16-6.

In the third quarter, senior running back Nick Jasch scored on a 4-yard run. Dairus Perisee, a junior fullback, picked up the two-point try with a trap run that gave West a 24-13 lead.

“More often than not, it comes in our favor,” Shillito said of going for two after every touchdown. “Every once in a while, it might bite us, and then we'll always remember that. For us, it's what we run.

“Three yards should be something we can get. It's just a philosophy. Two, obviously, is more than one, so that's why we do it,” he said.

The only two-point try that failed by the Dux, who entered the matchup against Lowell averaging 51 points per game, was a pass attempt from Brinks following Jasch's 7-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

“I think getting out of the blocks fast was big,” Shillito said. “I really thought the pass on the first (series) was one I was surprised we got on top of them a little bit early. They were ready to play the off-tackle game, and that's where our money's made most of the time. We did a nice job in our trap game.”

It's the part of the game plan Lowell (10-2) didn't execute quite as well.

The Red Arrows, who got four rushing touchdowns from junior running back Max Dean, stumbled on a pair of two-point conversions. Dean had scoring runs of nine yards in the second quarter and three yards late in the third quarter, but he was stopped short of the goal line on both conversion attempts.

Dean rushed for 167 yards on 34 carries and also had a 2-yard scoring run during the second quarter and a 20-yard burst up the middle midway through the fourth quarter that kept Lowell in it right until the end.

“I was proud of them and I thought they competed really well,” Lowell coach Noel Dean said. “It came down to the two-point conversions to be honest.”

The Red Arrows had a chance to tie the score at halftime, but missed a 20-yard field goal due to a poor snap.

Lowell junior quarterback Ryan Stevens finished 9-of-18 passing for 94 yards and had 22 rushes for 134 yards.

Geurink led the Dux with 17 rushes for 147 yards, while Jasch had 12 carries for 56 yards. Brinks completed all three pass attempts for 70 yards.

“At this point in the year, you don't win anything but tough games,” Shillito said. “The tournament draw for Division 3 this year, compared to what we faced last year, is night and day. You get Lowell, the winner of the Muskegon-Petoskey game next week, then probably Orchard Lake St. Mary's at the end.

“So, for us to win it, we are a one-day-a-week, one-week-at-a-time program. This win is very satisfying.”