By Joe St. Henry
Review Sports Writer
Lake Orion knew it would be facing one of the state’s best high school quarterbacks last Friday. He lived up to the hype, as West Bloomfield rode his arm to a 49-21 football victory over the Dragons.
The Lakers’ big play offense was in high gear, scoring on pass plays of 66, 92 and 55 yards. All total, West Bloomfield’s quarterback passed for 479 yards on 23 completions, with five touchdowns.
West Bloomfield picked up its first win of the year, while Lake Orion dropped to 0-3 (0-2 OAA Red).
“We knew he was good, but he was really on his game,” said Head Coach John Blackstock.
As with their first two games, the Dragons fell behind early. The Lakers took advantage of a short punt and turned it into a 32-yard drive, capped by a one-yard scoring run on fourth down, to take a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Lake Orion responded, however, with its own scoring drive when sophomore running back Kobe Manzo powered his way into the end zone from four yards out.
The quick strike capability of West Bloomfield then struck. It took only two plays for the Lakers to regain the lead scoring on a 66-yard over the shoulder touchdown pass-catch that put them up 14-7 after one quarter.
The Laker defense tightened up to slow down the Dragon running game in the second quarter, while their offense continued to make big plays in the air. The most damaging were a 92-yard scoring strike and 12-yard touchdown pass to open up a comfortable 28-7 lead at the break.
West Bloomfield wasted little time to further extend its lead in the third quarter, when its quarterback threw his fourth touchdown pass a little over a minute into the half. The 55-yard scoring toss upped the Laker lead to 35-7.
“You have to credit West Bloomfield, they’re a talented team,” Blackstock said. “But when you look at the film and see the mistakes we made, it takes some of the luster away. We certainly would have liked to have a few of those big plays back.”
Despite falling behind by four touchdowns, the Dragons did not give up and took the fight to the Lakers later in the quarter – something that impressed Blackstock and his coaching staff.
“Our kids could’ve quit after falling behind like that, but they showed character and got back into the game,” he said. “It was good to see.”
Lake Orion made it interesting half-way through the third quarter when sophomore quarterback Blaze Lauer scrambled 49 yards to the end zone on fourth down to cut the Laker lead. The young passer’s speed and elusiveness was on full display during the play, which brought the team, student section and crowd to life.
“That‘s what you get with Blaze,” Blackstock said. “He’s a really good athlete that can extend plays. He does some good things with his feet and makes people miss.”
The Dragons took advantage of the momentum shift and recovered the ensuing onside kick. They then marched down the field and scored on senior Tyler Vestrand’s 12-yard run, making the score 35-21 with plenty of time left in the game.
West Bloomfield, however, regrouped after recovering a short kickoff and methodically moved down the field, scoring on another short run to extend the lead to 42-21 after three quarters. After Lake Orion’s next drive stalled, the Lakers finished the scoring on a ten-yard run in the final quarter.
Lake Orion finished with 267 yards of offense, 253 of those on the ground. Senior Dylan Frank led the way with 85 yards on 20 carries. Lauer was 4-10 passing for 14 yards.
Blackstock said nobody is happy with the team’s 0-3 start to the season, but he thinks playing three top teams early in the season will benefit the team moving forward.
“We knew this would be a very challenging way to open the season,” he said. “Nobody thought we’d be winless after the first three games, but I think we’ve improved in areas each week. Of course, we have to get better in other phases of the game to have success the rest of the way.”
The Dragons hope to get into the win column this Friday when they travel to Troy Athens to take on the also winless Redhawks. Blackstock said Troy Athens has big offensive and defensive lines. Their offense plays “fast” with talented players at running back, receiver and quarterback, he added.
“They were a really young team last year,” Blackstock said. “Their younger players played a ton, so they are experienced.
“But some games have a different feel – I expect us to play really well.”