The Lakeland Lakers continued their football dominance over their county rivals from Prairie Heights this past Friday night at Hubert Cline Field in Brushy Prairie.
A big play offense, two booming field goals by Marco Olivares and a stingy defense which held the Panthers to just 139 total yards, all added up to a 27-12 victory for coach Keith Thompson’s Lakeland bunch. The result stretched the Lakers’ winning streak over Prairie Heights to 10 games in the Milk Can Game series.
“It’s a good start for us, especially by our defense, which really controlled Prairie Heights’ offense for most of the game,” said Thompson. “Our offense was more hit-and-miss, but that was due to a lot of new faces being in the lineup and missing some people because of injury. Let’s just say we have a reason to come to practice Monday.”
One of the new faces Thompson was glad to see in his lineup was senior receiver Joel Miller, who transferred to Lakeland last spring. After a Savan Patel interception gave the Lakers the ball near midfield, Miller took a screen pass from senior quarterback William Kelly and raced 52 yards for the season’s first touchdown. Olivares tacked on the PAT kick to put the visitors up 7-0 with just four minutes gone in the contest.
“We’re going to find a way to get the ball into his hands as much as possible,” said Thompson of Miller. “He’s a very talented player.”
Lakeland got the ball back less than two minutes later and proceeded to march 48 yards in five plays for its second score and a 14-0 edge. The big play of the drive was a 23-yard aerial from Kelly to senior Taylor Raatz, who made a leaping catch at the Heights 10. Senior fullback Thomas Roebel then hauled in a six-yard scoring strike from Kelly.
Late in the first quarter, the Panthers moved the ball from their own 20 to midfield on consecutive carries by junior halfback Joey Barry. The drive stalled there, but a fine punt by senior Corey Johnson pinned the Lakers back at their own two.
The Lakeland offense responded by putting together its best possession of the night, traveling 78 yards in 17 plays, eating up over eight minutes of the second period clock. Three rushes for 26 yards by senior slotback Kyle Casper and a 25-yard pass connection between Kelly and Raatz highlighted the drive, which ended with Olivares booting through a 39-yard field goal.
“Lakeland’s double-wing offense can lull people out of position and create spaces in the defense, which is what happened to us in the first half,” said Prairie Heights coach Vince Royer. “We were able to show this to the kids on the chalkboard at halftime and corrected it in the second half. Our solo agendas went away and we played as a team.”
The Panther defense seemed to have learned their halftime lesson well, holding the Lakers to one first down on their first possession and forced them into a third-and-13 situation from their own 11 on their second drive.
But Kelly, showing his veteran leadership and versatility, managed to scramble away from the Heights pass rush and launch a long pass to a wide open Wyatt Petty at midfield. The senior tight end gathered in the toss and sprinted the remaining 50 yards to complete an 89-yard scoring play that gave Lakeland a 24-0 lead.
Prairie Heights finally got on the board late in the third quarter when Zach Shepard stepped in front of a Kelly pass at the Panther 30 and raced 70 yards for a touchdown. The PAT was blocked, leaving the count at 24-6.
Lakeland milked the first six minutes off the fourth quarter clock by driving from its own 38 to the Heights 18. Olivares, a senior, culminated the march with a 35-yard field goal to extend the Laker advantage to 27-6.
The Panther offense finally got on the scoreboard with 3:34 left in the tilt when senior fullback Dylan Stayner crashed over the goalline from the one. Two big plays by Barry – a 41-yard reception of a pass from senior quarterback Kyler West and a 14-yard scamper – set up Stayner’s scoring plunge.
“I thought the kids showed a lot of character in the second half and competed to the end,” Royer observed. “That is so important for us continuing on this season.”
Six different Lakers gained rushing yards with Raatz topping the list at 99 on 11 carries. Kelly was 8-17 through the air for 230 yards. Miller nabbed three receptions for 79.
Barry paced Prairie Heights on the ground with 62 yards on eight attempts.
Lakeland hosts Fremont (0-1) and Prairie Heights visits Fairfield (1-0) this Friday in NECC action.
Prairie Heights 12
Scoring by quarter
LL 14 3 7 3 -27
PH 0 0 6 6 -12
LL—Joel Miller 52-yard pass from William Kelly, Marco Olivares kick (8:00)
LL—Thomas Roebel six-yard pass from Kelly, Olivares kick (4:09)
LL—Olivares 39-yard field goal (1:52)
LL—Wyatt Petty 89-yard pass from Kelly, Olivares kick (4:36)
PH—Zach Shepard 70-yard interception return, kick blocked (2:17)
LL—Olivares 35-yard field goal (6:34)
PH—Dylan Stayner one-yard run, conversion run failed (3:34)
Total Yards 468 139
Rushing 238 95
Passing 230 44
First Downs 19 7
Penalties 10-55 4-25
Turnovers 1 1
LL-- Raatz 11-99, Roebel 12-61, Casper 5-36, Collyer 6-26, Bender 4-19, Sams 1-15, Kelly 2-(-18)
PH—Barry 8-62, Blum 5-20, Shepard 4-13, Stayner 6-4, West 9-(-4)
LL—Kelly 8-17, 230
PH—West 2-9, 44
LL—Miller 3-79, Raatz 2-48, Petty 1-90, Casper 1-7, Roebel 1-6
PH—Barry 1-41, Gerbers 1-3
LL—Raatz 3.5, Casper 2-5, Collyer 2.5
PH—Rodriguez 8.0, Shepard 7.5, Everidge 7.5