By Joe St. Henry
Lake Orion Review Contributor
Senior running back Chris Wilson led Lake Orion’s second half surge past Stoney Creek Thursday, as the Dragons picked up their first win of the season, 30-10, over the Cougars.
Tied 3-3 at halftime in a tight defensive battle, Lake Orion made adjustments on offense during the break that led to 27 second-half points. The Dragons’ running game got on track, with Wilson breaking out for 120 yards on 18 carries, plus two catches and a highlight reel touchdown.
“We played better than in our first game,” said Head Coach Chris Bell. “Our offense started out slow, so we changed some things up at the half and came out playing more physical and faster in the third quarter. Confidence is a funny thing – once you taste success you go after it.”
While pleased with the second-half performance, Bell said there is still plenty of room for improvement, especially in the passing game, considering Lake Orion only completed four passes.
He said the Dragons played very well on defense and their special team play was “outstanding” against the Cougars. The win evens Lake Orion’s early season record at 1-1 (1-0 OAA Red).
The Dragons opened the game’s scoring in the first quarter on a 47-yard field goal by senior Parker Blust. The Cougars tied the contest just before halftime, however, on their own field goal from 18 yards out. Both teams came up with big defensive plays during the first half to keep the offenses out of the end zone. Lake Orion senior punter Taylor McCarty’s kicks kept the Cougars in check, averaging 48.7 yards on three punts.
Lake Orion came out in the second half determined to seize control of the line of scrimmage and the game, with Wilson establishing his presence on the ground. But it was senior slot back Max Horneffer’s 19-yard pass to junior wide receiver Pierce Burke half-way through the third quarter that gave the Dragons a 10-3 lead after Blust’s point-after-touchdown was good.
The home team seized control of the game on its next series, when Wilson caught a pass in the backfield and sprinted up field, following blocks and then outrunning the Cougar defense on his way to a 45-yard score. At that point, Lake Orion was up 17-3 after the PAT.
“Chris ran like we hope to see all year,” Bell said. “He’s a real hard, physical runner with outstanding speed. Once he gets in the open, nobody is going to catch him.”
After Stoney Creek scored on a short touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter, Lake Orion closed out the game with two final scores, a one-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback Ryan Kolp set up by a long-run by Horneffer and then a 25-yard score by senior slot receiver Nick Fletcher. Horneffer finished with 74 yards rushing, plus the touchdown pass.
The Dragons finished with 330 total yards, 247 on the ground (6.5 yards per attempt). Defensively, Lake Orion only gave up 208 yards, limiting Stoney Creek to 42 rushing yards. The Dragons did have 100 yards in penalties.
This week Lake Orion travels to West Bloomfield, the defending OAA Red league champions. The Lakers beat Oxford last week. While West Bloomfield lost several players from last year’s team to graduation, Bell said the Lakers are still a very good team, with very big lines and key starters returning at running back and receiver. They also have a transfer quarterback with a strong arm.
“The key for us to stop them from making big plays,” Bell said. “We have to make them work for everything.”
By Joe St. Henry