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Lowell wins seventh straight, hands East Grand Rapids 35-13 loss as OK White rivalry ends

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By Kelly Hill

Lowell – Moments after his Red Arrows beat East Grand Rapids 35-13 Friday night, Lowell coach Noel Dean took a step back, cocked his head slightly and a wry grin crossed his face.

“Finally, after 20 years, this is the first time I can say I have a winning record against those guys,” he said, satisfied and relieved. “Ever since George (former East Grand Rapids coach Barcheski) won that first one here.”

An era, of sorts, came to an end Friday night as Lowell and East Grand Rapids played their final game as Ottawa Kent Conference White Division rivals. Realignment of the OK Conference, in time for the 2016-17 academic year, will move East Grand Rapids to the Gold Division.

“This won't be our last game against EGR,” Dean said. OK Conference schedules feature crossover games, and in future seasons the top teams in the White and Gold Divisions are slated to meet. “It's been arranged so that we'll play again.”

Despite Friday's loss, East Grand Rapids maintains a 33-15 lead in its rivalry with the Red Arrows. Dean, however, has coached in only the last 23 meetings between the two teams and Lowell's victory over the Pioneers gives Dean a personal record of 12-11 against this foe. It has taken six consecutive victories over the Pioneers for Dean to earn that distinction.

  “This is a storied rivalry, but one of mutual respect,” East Grand Rapids coach Peter Stuursma said Friday night. “We have had a lot of hard-fought battles but tonight they made a lot more plays than we did. After a period of time.

   “You realize that both programs and both communities are trying to do the same thing. I am going to miss Lowell-EGR because in this game you know what you are going to get.”

  Lowell won Friday night's match-up in large part because of the play of senior quarterback Ryan Stevens. Stevens rushed for three touchdowns (two, 17 and 29 yards) and threw for two touchdown passes (10 and 36 yards). His right arm and his legs accounted for over 300 total yards of offense Friday night.

   “The credit goes to my offensive line,” Stevens said. “I am nothing without them. They made holes for me all night long.”

   Lowell (7-1, 4-0), which lost its season opener to Walled Lake Western, clinched at least a share of the OK White championship.

  The Red Arrows jumped out to a 21-0 lead but EGR (5-3 overall, 2-2 in the White) came back to within one score, 21-13, only to have Lowell answer with an eight-play, 65-yard touchdown drive.

   “This was an extremely exciting game,” Dean said. “Ryan Stevens is right there with the best (quarterbacks) I've had here, and I've had some very good ones. “Nobody manages a game like he does. He sure did a nice job tonight.”

   East Grand Rapids started sophomore quarterback Michael Malewitz as senior Jon Olsson is out with an injury.

   “Michael Malewitz is a football player and he's going to be a dandy,” Stuursma said. “This was a tough environment to be thrown into.

   “We didn't play very well. (Lowell) is a good football team. They owned the line of scrimmage. They ran on us at will, and that's not like us.”