By Joe St. Henry
Review Sports Writer
An unlikely hero sparked Lake Orion’s football team last Friday, turning a close game in the rain against Troy Athens into a second-half rout, with the Dragons winning 47-14.
Down by six points early in the third quarter, the Red Hawks were pinned deep in their own territory and punting the ball.
Dragon junior defensive back Parker Edmunds busted through the line to block the kick and then alertly recovered the loose ball in the end zone for a touchdown. After the two-point conversion was good, the Dragons had a 28-14 lead that they never relinquished.
“Parker timed it perfect and came in clean to block the kick,” said Head Coach Chris Bell. “Then he got up and recovered the ball for the score. That was the dagger.”
The victory improved Lake Orion’s record to 4-2 (4-1 OAA Red). There is now a four-way tie for first place in the league, between Lake Orion, Clarkston, Southfield and West Bloomfield, with three games to go in the regular season.
Lake Orion started fast, scoring on its second play when senior running back Chris Wilson sprinted 67 yards to the end zone for the Dragons’ first score less than two minutes into the game.
Later in the period, junior Dylan Frank capped a long drive by diving into the end zone with a couple of Red Hawks on his back on a ten-yard rush to put Lake Orion up 14-0.
During the second quarter, however, Troy Athens took advantage of better field position and a couple of key third-down conversions to get back in the game.
The offense put together two scoring drives. The Red Hawks’ second score came with less than a minute left in the half to tie the game at 14-14 at the break.
“We kept losing leverage in the second quarter and did not contain them on the edge,” Bell said. “They got their running game going and we let the quarterback get outside to make plays.”
Lake Orion’s offense got back on track early in the third quarter. The Dragons moved down the field on their first possession and regained the lead on junior running back Tyler Vestrand’s five-yard score.
A couple of minutes later, Edmunds’ blocked punt and touchdown gave Lake Orion its two-score lead back and all the momentum.
While junior defensive tackle Dustin Sokolowski and his teammates shut down the Red Hawk running game, Lake Orion’s offense continued to produce. Later in the third quarter, Frank shrugged off a big hit near the line of scrimmage and rambled 47 yards for his second touchdown of the game to put the Dragons up by three scores. He finished with 59 yards rushing.
“We don’t always give him much help, but he just does it on his own,” Bell said. “Dylan just doesn’t go down.”
Senior running back Nick Fletcher finished Lake Orion’s scoring burst with two rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
The Dragons outscored the Red Hawks 33-0 in the second half. Chris Wilson continued his strong season, with 98 yards on the ground.
Bell said the play of the team’s offensive line has been a key to its three-game winning streak. Each of the starters on the line has progressively improved, he stressed, but seniors Nick Novak (tackle) and Jeff McCarty (center) are both playing at all-state levels right now.
He also has been pleased with the play of junior tackle Austin Findlay and undersized guards junior Conner Wise and senior Zach Gotowicki who “really get after people”.
Other keys to the Dragons’ recent success have been no turnovers in the past two games, plus a reduced number of penalties.
“We’re showing people that when we can put it all together we’re a pretty good football team,” Bell said.
“But we still have lapses of sloppiness. We can’t have a bad quarter. You have to play at a high level on every down. Our goal is to win every series,” he added.
Lake Orion turns its attention to Birmingham Seaholm this week, its third road game in a row.
The Maples, sporting a 2-4 record after beating North Farmington in their last game, score a lot of points with a veer offense that features plenty of misdirection.
“We have to play very disciplined on defense against them,” Bell said. “Everyone has to do their jobs to slow down that offense.”
By Joe St. Henry