Hornets hit hard in opener

HOUGHTON – Given the break it needed, L’Anse unleashed its worst on Houghton.

When all was said and done, the Purple Hornets scored five touchdowns in the last nine minutes of the first half, more than enough for a 48-14 WestPAC defeat of the Gremlins.

“Our big offensive line really started wearing them down. We started pushing them around and our backs were hitting the holes hard. I think that was the key. Our kids were in good condition, they worked hard at it, and I think that kind of showed,” L’Anse coach Mark Leaf said.

Though they scored on their first possession, the visitors did not establish their supremacy immediately. Houghton moved the ball on its first two trips, and a deep ball to Sam Bethancourt followed by a Ben Collaer run put the Gremlins on the L’Anse 10-yard line.

A penalty and a busted running play pushed Houghton back to the 20 and Collaer underthrew Bethancourt in the left corner, setting up Veker for an easy interception and a big day.

L’Anse rolled on a 12-play drive ending in Veker’s second score of the game, this time on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Jacob Ostermeyer.

L’Anse scored again on its next offensive touch, a 49-yard sprint from tailback Brandon Kemppainen and after a second Houghton three-and-out and exchange of turnovers, made it 28-0 on another one-play drive, this one a 32-yard Veker run.

Veker scored from 13 yards out with 2:46 left in the half and Zach Hulkonen tacked on a fifth touchdown in the quarter with 2:26 later.

“I thought our offensive line really came around and really started blocking very well. There were some gaping holes in the first half, we really ran the ball well,” Leaf said.

Between the interception and the end of the half, Houghton had three three-and-outs and two turnovers.

“They just knocked us off the ball,” Houghton coach Karl Borree said. “They just controlled our front seven and that is a recipe for disaster.”

Veker finished with three rushing TDs and one receiving in addition to the key interception.

“He’s just an all-around threat. Wherever you line him up, he’s got to be accounted for, and that opens up other things for our offense when you can move him around like that. He had a great game,” Leaf said.

However, Kemppainen racked up the yards, totaling a game-high 138 on 10 carries. Veker had 10 rush attempts for 72.

“We played a lot of guys who had never played before. It gives clarity. When we scrimmaged last week in Kingsford, I could stand behind them and get them positioned. When we’re doing this you can’t and you can really see the inexperience,” Borree said.

Houghton regained its bearings after the half, scoring on its first drive to stop the running clock.

Ostermeyer hit a wide-open Jonny Magaraggia to put the point-differential rule back into effect, but Houghton showed improvement throughout the second half, culminating in a 4-yard TD run from Collaer just before the final gun.

Collaer was active, throwing for 174 yards (against two picks) and carrying the ball 27 times for 57 yards and both Houghton scores.

Both teams will have the same jerseys next Friday for Week 2: Houghton hosts Westwood in a non-league game, while L’Anse travels to West Iron County.