By Mitchell Boatman
NORTH MUSKEGON – There are several very good teams in the West Michigan Conference, but so far none of them have been able to stop Oakridge.
The Eagles outgained the Norse 248 to 17 in the opening half and led 22-0 at the break. The second half was more evenly played, but the Eagles’ ground game and defense was too much for North Muskegon.
Oakridge’s two-headed backfield of Leroy Quinn and Corey Vanderputte once again led the charge. Quinn ran 178 yards and scored three touchdowns, while Vanderputte racked up 203 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“It was huge to establish our ground game, get that rolling,” said Oakridge head coach Cary Harger. “We wanted to make sure that we could get it going and get that little cushion.”
“He’s an absolutely amazing back,” Quinn said of the sophomore Vanderputte. “I’m so fortunate to have Corey by my side in everything, and with the offensive line we have, too.”Vanderputte said having Quinn to teach him to ropes has been a great experience.
“He’s unbelievable,” he said. “He’s one of the best, if not the best in the state. It’s incredible to play by someone like him who can get the job done and teach me things on the way.”
The win for Oakridge sets up a showdown with Ravenna for the West Michigan Conference championship next week. Both teams come in at 6-0 in league play.
“Now we can look at Week 8,” Harger said. “This was a goal of the kids since our pre-summer meeting, to get this conference championship. Our motto this year has been ‘exceed the expectations’ and these kids have definitely been doing that.”
North Muskegon falls to 4-3 overall and 3-3 in the conference. The Norse will have to win their final two games against Mason County Central and Orchard View to automatically qualify for the playoffs.
“We’ve got to bounce back, we’ve still got playoff aspirations ahead of us,” Norse head coach Larry Witham said. “We don’t have an easy road ahead of us, that’s for sure. We know we’re a good football team.”
Oakridge got on the board first on a 42-yard burst from Vanderputte midway through the first quarter. The Eagles tacked on another score with 2:49 left in the opening quarter on a 10-yard run from Quinn.
Vanderputte added another touchdown on a 32-yard run with 5:17 to play in the first half. Quinn tacked on the two-point conversion to bring the score to 22-0, which held through to halftime.
Quinn punched in a 16-yard touchdown late in the third quarter. The conversion attempt failed, leaving the score at 28-0 heading to the fourth.
North Muskegon started to rally early in the fourth, getting on the scoreboard with 11:06 to play on a 2-yard run by Stephan Smith.
After forcing a turnover on downs, the Norse got the ball back and appeared to have the momentum. But another big play from Quinn – this time a spectacular one-handed interception along the sideline – swung things the other way with 5:37 to play.
After both teams turned it over on downs again, Quinn capped off the scoring with a 34-yard run with 1:20 remaining.
North Muskegon quarterback John Hayhurst was 5-fpr-15 passing for 85 yards, with much of that coming in the fourth quarter once a steady rain lightened up. Brenden Moat was the leading receiver with three catches for 76 yards. Moat also shined as a punter, averaging 49 yards on four kicks.
Nate Fair led the Oakridge defense with nine tackles and Quinn had four.