Trojans Respond (In a Big Way), Defeat Grand Ledge 42-3 in Conference Opener

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Saturday, September 14, 2019, 8:15 am
Mark Meyer

GRAND LEDGE — East Lansing had just enough time to figure out what went wrong against Grandville last week to quickly make amends against Grand Ledge on Friday night in the Capital Area Activities Conference (CAAC) Blue Division opening game for both teams.

The Trojans took advantage of some timely defensive plays and quick strikes offensively, and the result was a convincing 42-3 victory over the host Comets. The victory improved East Lansing’s record to 2-1 while Grand Ledge remains winless in three starts.

East Lansing, which returns home next week to face Portage Northern, scored on three of its first four possessions:

  • Junior linebacker Ahmad Kareem recovered a Grand Ledge fumble on the first play from scrimmage. Four plays later, senior quarterback Sam Busch connected with junior wideout Andrel Anthony on a 27-yard scoring pass.
  • On its third series, East Lansing scored early in the second quarter on a 5-yard run by senior tailback T’Senre Gray. One possession earlier, East Lansing cornerback Louis Booth stopped Grand Ledge quarterback Logan Todd on a fourth down play at the Comets’ 35 yard line.
  • Booth’s tackle for loss on the next series forced Grand Ledge to punt after three plays. The Trojan offense responded by using only five plays to drive 59 yards for their third. Key plays included a 26-yard pass from Busch to Tyler Washington and a 22-yard run by sophomore tailback Asher Gregory. Senior fullback Jamar Mills powered across the goal line from the 3 yard line with 8:25 remaining til halftime.

Even when it misfired, East Lansing was able to recover in time to avert disaster. A mishandled screen pass from Busch to Gregory resulted in a turnover for Grand Ledge. Trailing 21-3, the Comets had possession at the Trojans’ 23 yard line but were unable to gain a first down.

A sideways punt put the ball back in Busch’s hands, and he promptly guided the East Lansing offense on a 70-yard drive over the last four minutes of the half. The icing on the cake came in the form of a 15-yard scoring pass to senior receiver Malakai Matthews with just eight seconds left on the clock. Junior placekicker Emory Roberts’ fourth extra point of the game was more than the Trojans needed to finish the first 24 minutes with a comfortable lead.

East Lansing junior linebacker/tight end Sebastian Smith (35), pictured here against St. Johns on Aug. 30, contributed seven tackles on defense during Friday's 42-3 victory over Grand Ledge.

“You’re going to meet those times when things don’t go your way, so we talked all week about responding,” East Lansing head coach Bill Feraco said, in reference to last week’s 59-20 setback to Grandville. “Good teams, good people, don’t dwell on misfortune. They make better things happen.

“We’re young, so I don’t know how much we really internalized. We focused instead on redeeming ourselves.”

Dominating drive to begin the second half

The first possession of the third quarter typified the Trojans' dominating performance. After Anthony watched the Grand Ledge kickoff sail into the end zone for a touchback, Busch proceeded to engineer an 80-yard drive over 14 plays that chewed up 8 minutes, 25 seconds of clock time. Gregory's 7-yard, highlight reel hurdle of a Grand Ledge defender near the goal line set the stage for Mills' second score from 1 yard out.

The combination of Busch's passing and Gregory and Alex Hosey's running proved too much for the Comets' defense to contain.

“We knew coming into the season that we potentially had depth at the running back position,” Feraco said. “We used T’Senre (Gray) quite a bit defensively tonight, so having the other two (Hosey and Gregory) available is something that helps spread the ball around.”

Hosey, a junior, led all Trojan rushers with 12 carries for 111 yards, 52 of which he earned on the sixth East Lansing touchdown of the night. Hosey’s route to the end zone left multiple Comet defenders in his wake as he dipped and darted past (and through) would-be tacklers.

Busch completed 15 of 24 passes for 197 yards. Seven of those passes went to Anthony for 99 yards.

Senior Jayth Joseph led the Trojan defense with nine tackles; junior linebacker Sebastian Smith had seven.

“We knew after last week that we had to respond,” Booth said. “Respond, respond, respond. That’s pretty much what we talked about all week.”

Things went so well for East Lansing that first-year placekicker Emory Roberts was a perfect 6-for-6 on his point-after kicks.

“He’s never played football before but we knew he could kick,” said Booth, who doubles as the placeholder on extra-point attempts. “It's one of those things we work on in practice all week, and we're getting much better at it.”

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