Football falls short

Jason Vander Laan threw five touchdowns against GVSU on Saturday, but it wasn’t enough as the Dawgs lost the game 38-34.
Jason Vander Laan threw five touchdowns against GVSU on Saturday, but it wasn’t enough as the Dawgs lost the game 38-34. Photo courtesy of Kevin T. McDermott
The Ferris football season ended with a 38-34 loss in a rematch against GLIAC rival Grand Valley State University (GVSU) Lakers in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs on Saturday, Nov. 28 ending an era in Ferris State lore.

This is the second consecutive year the Bulldogs have ended an undefeated season in the second round to divisional foes that Ferris had beaten previously in the year. Earlier this season, FSU topped GVSU 61-24.

Saturday’s game was much different from the previous encounter.

Grand Valley scored first with a nine-yard pass. Ferris would respond later in the first quarter when senior quarterback Jason Vander Laan threw the first of his five touchdown passes to senior receiver Antonio Agurs for 35 yards.

Agurs led the team this year in receptions with 65.

The Lakers wasted no time firing back throwing a 68-yard touchdown pass two plays later.

FSU and GVSU would trade scores the rest of the first half. During the span, Vander Laan threw two touchdown passes. The first was for seven yards to junior receiver Shakur Sanders and the following for 35 yards to sophomore receiver Jajuan Pollock.

Grand Valley struck last in the first half with a 30-yard pass, sending Ferris into the half trailing 20-24.

The Bulldogs were the first to score in the second half. A 30-yard punt return from junior defensive back Jaleel Canty set Ferris up at the GVSU 23-yard line when Vander Laan threw a touchdown to Agurs on the first play.

The Lakers would answer later in the quarter.

After the GVSU score, FSU capped off a 13-play 83-yard drive with a 10-yard Vander Laan pass to junior receiver Jamel Lockett. This would be the last touchdown pass of Vander Laan’s illustrious career.

Grand Valley drove the ball 78 yards on the next drive for the final touchdown of the game from the one-yard line with 8:23 left in the game.

Ferris could not respond this time as Vander Laan threw an interception at midfield. Still, the Bulldogs got the ball back down 34-38 with 4:16 left.

They drove the ball to their own 47, where they found themselves at fourth and eight. A chess match of timeouts between opposing coaches held the suspense in the air for what seemed like forever. An undefeated Bulldog team had one play to decide the season.

However, Vander Laan’s pass was broken up as it was intended for senior receiver Jake Lampman.

Grand Valley would take the ball on downs and kneel the clock out.

In that moment, the college careers of 17 Ferris State seniors ended where they began on Top Taggart Field.

Lockett led Ferris receivers in the game with nine receptions and 87 yards with a touchdown.

As usual, the workhorse on the ground was Vander Laan with 126 yards on 21 tries. He also threw for 281 yards on 24-40 attempts with five touchdowns and two interceptions.

The defense racked up five sacks and two interceptions. The leading tacklers for Ferris were junior linebacker Anthony Darkangelo with 11 and senior defensive back David Churchwell with nine.

The Ferris football season came to a close the same way it did a year ago. It is the end of the Vander Laan era but the Bulldogs have many key returning starters such as Sanders, Lockett, Darkangelo and sophomore running back Jahaan Brown. With an abundance of talent left, Ferris State will look to make a run at its third consecutive NCAA tournament appearance next year.