COLOMA — Coloma’s football team couldn’t afford another loss, let alone one as heartbreaking as the one it suffered last week.
The Comets earned a much-needed victory on Friday, defeating Division 6 No. 9 Schoolcraft 32-7 in a Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley Division matchup.
The victory came after Coloma lost in a tough fashion last week to Kalamazoo United, a game it lost by a single point despite outgaining United 375-198. The Comets (2-1 SAC Valley, 5-2) made sure there would be no repeats of that game.
“That’s a huge win against a heck of an opponent,” said Coloma coach Joe Stephens. “We had a lot of guys step up. We were solid and made some big pass plays on offense to move the chains, then late in the game bled the clock out the way you’re supposed to.
“With the defense creating turnovers, that ended up being the x-factor tonight.”
The win puts the Comets in second place in the Valley Division, just a game behind undefeated Watervliet (3-0, 7-0). The Panthers and Comets are scheduled to play the final game of the season.
Coloma’s ability to control the ball in the second half played a major role. The Comets possessed the football for nearly 18 of the 24 second-half minutes.
“That’s just out of respect for their program and the explosiveness of their offense,” said Stephens. “If we’ve got it, they can’t score, so that’s what we did. We just chunked away at it and had a few big fourth-down conversions.”
Schoolcraft (2-1, 5-2) managed to gain 252 yards on the ground, but two fumbles inside the Coloma 10 held the Eagles to just seven points. Schoolcraft had scored 198 prior last night’s game.
Coloma would force the Eagles into four more turnovers, three by interception and one by fumble.
The Comets converted those turnovers into 26 points.
“They had some big offensive plays, but our guys just held their ground inside the 20 and made them run plays,” said Stephens. “In a night like tonight, it’s a little rainy, a little sloppy, so you make people run plays and sometimes good things happen.”
Levi Wilkens intercepted two passes for the Comets, one of which he returned 39 yards to put Coloma up 20-0 midway through the second. Wilkens also had a one-yard touchdown run in the first to open the scoring for the game.
Wilkens gained 43 yards on 10 carries and added 44 yards receiving on three catches.
“All season we’ve been working our butts off, being in the weight room,” said Wilkens. “(We) just maintain to stop offenses this year. If it wasn’t for all of that input in practice before the season, it wouldn’t have been that way tonight.”
Quarterback Zach Goodline competed six of seven passes for 122 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown to a diving Calvin Starnes in the third.
Goodline also rushed for 78 yards on 17 carries, and had a 37-yard touchdown on an option play in the second.
Senior fullback Jamane Smith also rushed for a touchdown and intercepted a pass on defense as well.
Coloma plays Delton Kellogg next week at home, a team that Stephens says his players cannot take for granted despite its 3-4 record.
“They’re quality, they’re big and they’re physical,” he said. “This is an up-for-grabs division. Anybody can win on any given night.”