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Falcons Sports

Chris James' big stop sends East Kentwood past Caledonia

Posted Saturday, August 28, 2010 by Jane Bos | The Grand Rapids Press, August 28, 2010 12:36 a.m.
KENTWOOD -- A back-pedaling Chris James looked up and leaped, arching his back and stretching his arms high.The East Kentwood long-legged senior stopped the spiraling football with his fingertips, and on his way back down to earth, he pulled it in.

Not to be overly dramatic, but, game over.A cornerback, James made the critical interception deep in Caledonia's territory and halted the Fighting Scots' final drive, sealing East Kentwood's 24-20 season-opening victory.

"I just read the play," James said. "I thought I was late for a minute. I just reached and I grabbed it. I was like, I don't get this, we are not going to win."As it turned out, he was right. It was the biggest play in a game of really big plays. In a game featuring four touchdowns of at least 45 yards, it came down to that big defensive play.

The 6-foot-2, 177-pound James doesn't stop the long pass on the 32-yard line, it would have been six points for Caledonia, whose receiver was spot on. Instead, with 1:28 left in the game, the Falcons ran out the clock.James, though, was quick to point toward his teammates, saying it was a "team effort."

He was right again.

Branden VandenToorn, East Kentwood's 5-foot-7 junior running back, clearly put in a huge effort late in the game, along with the rest of the offense.

With the Falcons trailing 20-17, Vandertoorn broke free and raced and dodged 45 yards into the end zone. With 2:05 remaining, East Kentwood narrowed the score to 20-17.

"It's always tight games with them, and in the past when it got tight, we went back to what we knew, almost street football," East Kentwood coach Greg Hudkins said. "I just told them to focus on alignment, assignments and technique. I told them not to worry about anything else."

After giving up 20 consecutive points to Caledonia, the Falcons needed to focus.

They did."It took us a little while to get going, and our defense kept us in the game," Caledonia coach Steve Uyl said. "Kentwood made the plays down the stretch when they needed to."

The Falcons made big plays at the start, too. Their first-half scores came on a 60-yard run by Austen Bennett and a 53-yard pass from Jason Dickey to Brayden Miller.

Then, with 37 seconds left in the first half, Caledonia finally scored on a 63-yard run by TJ Jones.

It was all Scots until Jason Pajersky booted a 25-yard field goal with 4:31 remaining. All that remained were Vandertoorn's big run and James' big stop.

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