ISHPEMING – A youthful and inexperienced Westwood team couldn’t hold onto a fourth-quarter lead as senior-laden Houghton stormed back for a 32-14 high school football victory on Friday night.
It’s the first time Houghton started 2-0 since 2001.
Patriots’ head coach Scott Syrjala said his team is still learning how to close out games against tough opponents.
“I looked across the field in the third quarter, and saw (Houghton’s) senior quarterback and running back rallying the team together, and we’re still trying to find that senior leadership.
“We have a lot of guys who will get to that role, but we’re just too young right now.”
The Gremlins were led by senior quarterback Jordan Reynolds, who led his team in rushing with 131 yards and three touchdowns while adding 68 yards through the air.
His favorite target, senior wide receiver Quentin Stachowiak, also came through in the clutch when his team trailed late in the third quarter.
The Patriots took a 14-12 lead after scoring on their opening drive in the third quarter. Sophomore quarterback Nathan Beckman rushed all nine snaps on the drive, leading his offense down field and culminating with a 2-yard score.
Houghton received the ball on the ensuing kickoff and marched 70 yards for the go-ahead score early in the fourth quarter.
During the drive, Reynolds converted on third-and-long with a 25-yard pass to a diving Stachowiak to extend it.
Houghton head coach Karl Borree said the catch was the turning point in the game.
“It was a huge play that shifted the field in our favor,” Borree said. “Westwood had taken all the momentum out of us and had control of the game with our backs against the wall, and we were still trying to fight back into control when (Stachowiak) bailed us out.”
Stachowiak said the catch rallied his team on the sideline.
“It was heart racing,” Stachowiak said. “I had a lot of adrenaline flowing when I went to the line, and when the ball came my way I put everything on the line to pull it in. It got the team pumped and hollering, and it really gave us energy to play hard and finish the game.”
Westwood’s defense didn’t have an answer as the Gremlins continued marching toward the end zone, culminating in Reynolds’ one-yard scoring run to regain the lead, 18-14, with 10 minutes remaining.
The Patriots offense went cold on their next possession, going three-and-out and giving the ball back to the Gremlins near midfield.
Stachowiak found a hole to the right on the first play and rushed 45 yards for another touchdown. A successful Reynolds rush on the two-point conversion put Houghton up 26-14 and put Westwood out of reach with 6:30 remaining.
Syrjala said his team is just a few plays away from reaching a level of winning football.
“We greatly improved from last week, but we’re still hurting ourselves with mistakes,” Syrjala said. “We had a few dropped balls at key times, and when we’re as young as we are right now, we’re not going to get a lot of opportunities.
“There were moments where we could have made big plays, but the ball kept falling through our hands, and it cost us in the end.”
Up next, Houghton hosts Ironwood on Friday.