By Joe St. Henry
Review Sports Contributor
With storm clouds looming overhead, Lake Orion’s varsity football team produced its own thunder and lightning in its first game of the season to beat Lapeer, 17-7.
The victory avenged last season’s loss to the Lightning and snapped the Dragons’ five-game losing streak on opening night.
The contest was suspended in the third quarter last Thursday due to lightning and completed Friday afternoon under sunny skies.
Lake Orion’s offense scored all of its points in the second quarter and the Dragon defense was stout, allowing Lapeer just 153 yards of total offense. The Lightning were limited to 2.5 yards per play and only 53 yards rushing.
“Our front seven played really well,” said head coach John Blackstock. “We played a lot of guys, switching them in and out depending on the situation. I was really impressed how smooth the substitutions went, especially for the first game, and that’s a credit to the defensive coaches.”
After spotting the Lightning a seven-point lead early in the game, senior running back Kobe Manzo sparked the Dragons’ offense with a 72-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Lake Orion took the lead on its next possession with a 39-yard field goal by senior Connor Ross, set up by an interception by junior defensive back Kade Manzo. Blackstock said that field goal really charged the team, given the breezy conditions.
Senior quarterback Blaze Lauer then threw his first touchdown pass of the season, a 21-yard strike to senior wide receiver Sam Staruch, just before halftime to give the Dragons a ten-point lead that they never gave up.
The Lightning’s best chance to cut the deficit came after the game was resumed on Friday.
Lapeer started on Lake Orion’s 30-yard line and quickly drove inside the Dragon five-yard line. Lake Orion’s defense rose to the occasion, however, stopping Lapeer on fourth down and goal.
“The goal line stand was huge, in terms of switching the momentum and giving our kids confidence,” Blackstock said. “It really forced Lapeer to open it up and take some chances late in the game and gave us the opportunity to get aggressive.”
Neither team could produce a scoring drive during the remainder of the game. The head coach noted Lake Orion’s ability to grind out enough yards to wind down the clock for the win.
“I think the difference in the game was our mindset – giving up an early score, the weather, our goal line stand, running out the clock,” Blackstock said. “We handled adversity well.”
Kobe Manzo finished with 161 yards rushing on 24 carries, while Lauer completed 7-13 passes for 50 yards and the scoring pass, plus an interception. Junior Kade Manzo led the defense with 12 tackles and the interception.
Blackstock could not stress enough how important the win was for the team and program.
“Our coaching staff took the approach that it was imperative we win,” Blackstock said. “We had to prove we could beat a quality opponent in the opening game, since it had been a while. Plus, with this schedule, you take every win you can get.”
This week, Lake Orion plays its first home game against Southfield A&T, which beat Clarkston last week. Blackstock said the Dragons will have their work cut out for them on both sides of the ball.
“They are a really talented and physical football team that is playing with a lot of confidence after knocking off Clarkston,” he said. “Southfield is loaded in the skill positions, especially at wide receiver and running back. Their defense is as big, rugged and physical as any team in the state.
“This is a great opportunity for us to play a great team.”
Game time is at 7 p.m. on Friday at Dragon Stadium.