Rally through the rain: GVSU Football edges Davenport to win homecoming game


Kellen Voss, Sports Editor

Despite a consistent flow of rain pouring down their facemasks, the Grand Valley State football team was able to claim their third consecutive victory on Saturday, Oct. 26, as they defeated the Davenport Panthers, 27-7.

The tone was set right away by the GVSU defense, who with the help of nonstop rain, forced a fumble in the first few minutes of the game that was recovered by junior defensive lineman Dennis Johnson. Despite the conditions, the Lakers never turned the ball over in the contest, compared to Davenport’s three fumbles.

“That’s the first time all season we didn’t turn the ball over,” said GVSU coach Matt Mitchell. “Interesting conditions, but I’m proud of our guys for getting the win.”

Johnson’s fumble recovery wasn’t the only time Grand Valley took advantage of a Davenport turnover in that first half. The Lakers used their improved field position off a blocked punt and a scoop-and-score by redshirt freshman defensive lineman Christian McCarroll to help GVSU to a 21-0 lead in that first half.

“It’s so rare that defenses get turnovers, so when we get a turnover for a touchdown, it’s a big deal,” said sophomore linebacker Brendann Brown. “If any of us got it, it was going to be a good celebration, but I’m glad our d-lineman got it.”

Part of the reason why GVSU was able to get so many turnovers was because of the constant pressure of Brown and the defensive front seven, who totaled six sacks on the night. The back four did a quality job as well, not allowing a completed Panther pass until the third quarter.

“We knew we had to do a good job with our alignment, assignment and execution,” Brown said. “We had a lot of stunts in our defensive line, freeing up our backers. We knew the quarterback liked to run out of the pocket a lot, so we had to wrap him up.”

In a game that featured less offense due to the adverse conditions, GVSU took advantage of their few opportunities. Junior quarterback Cole Kotopka did all the scoring offensively, finding the end zone twice with his legs and once with his arm on an eight-yard pass to sophomore tight end Jayk Slager.

Having scored in the previous two games and doubling his high school touchdown total, Slager said he is happy to be contributing as more than a blocker in the Laker offense.

GVL \ Alexis Velazquez

“I just did what my coaches ask of me over the summer and during the season, so I’m trying to get better every day,” Slager said. “It felt amazing to get some points on the board for the team.”

The Lakers need to heal up fast on offense, as they’ve suffered a few injuries to key contributors over the last few weeks.

Starting right tackle Garrett Carroll wasn’t dressed due to a day-to-day injury suffered in the win over NMU last week, and fellow starters Tariq Reid (running back) and Matthew Stefanski (right guard) left midway through the game due to undisclosed injuries. Reid joined fellow injured running backs Aryuan Cain-Veasey, Bryce Young-Walls and Jack Provencher, who have all missed multiple games due to injury this season.

As the Lakers head into the stretch run of the season, Mitchell wants to not only see his team improve on the practice field, but also get healthy with playoffs approaching sooner than later.

“We’re down a lot of running backs after losing Tariq (Reid) again,” Mitchell said. “We had some other guys have injuries in this one, but we’ll get back in here and get to work with William Jewel.”

That match-up with William Jewel College will take place Saturday, Nov. 2, as the Lakers will kick off with the Missouri school at Lubbers Stadium at 4 p.m.