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Dakota wins a thriller against Orchard Lake St. Mary's PHOTO GALLERY

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Cougars knock off two-time state champs

Dakota's football team is beginning to like opening up the season against defending state champs.

For the second year in a row the Cougars knocked off a defending state champ, this time edging Orchard Lake St. Mary's, 35-28, Thursday night at Dakota.

"I don't know if this does a lot for our program because we're a good program," said Dakota first-year coach Greg Baur, who replaced Mike Giannone after he left to take over at Da La Salle. "They're one heck of a team. They're unbelievable. We got the lead like we wanted to. We wanted to play from ahead and we held on with the grace of God on the fumble."

The Eaglets have won the Division 3 state title two years in a row.

The Cougars beat Clarkston a year ago after the Wolves had won two straight Division 1 state titles. Dakota lost the first meeting with Clarkston in 2014.

"I'm just so incredibly proud of these kids," Baur said. "They committed five months ago for this very night and they gave everything they had and more. I couldn't be more proud of my team."

Quarterback Brett Droski led the way for the Cougars, completing 10 of 15 passes for 245 yards and four TD passes, three of which went to Jaylen Hall, who wound up with three catches for 155 yards.

"Jaylen Hall is special, not too many people know about him," Baur said. "He's going up against a Division I corner and looked pretty good. We had some plays built in for Jaylen, not too many people are going to cover him no matter who they are."

Evan Sivec hauled in another TD strike and also returned a punt 75 yards for a score to put Dakota up 35-21 early in the fourth quarter. Sivec replaced Kaiser Carleton on punt returns after the senior running back was injured late in the third quarter and didn't return.

"Our special team coaches work on that religiously, all day and every day," Baur said. "It paid off. We hit one or two of those a year and tonight it proved to be a big one."

"That's a big special team play," OLSM coach George Porritt said. "Anytime you can get a touchdown on special team that's big time. That hurt us. We made a lot of mistakes, but we lost to a good football team. That's a good football team."

For the Eaglets, RaShawn Allen (25 carries, 167 yards) ran for two scores, while Kyren Cunningham scored on an 80-yard run and later caught a 54-yard TD pass from Caden Prieskorn.

Dakota looked like it was going to be able to run out the clock with just over three minutes left in the fourth quarter and OLSM having just one timeout left, but a fumble on the first play from scrimmage gave the Eaglets the ball on the Cougars' 13-yard line.

Two plays later, Dakota forced a fumble that was recovered by Chris Magee. From there the Cougars were able to run out the clock.

"This really shows where we stand," Sivec said. "We're here making a statement. We've been practicing and working hard all summer for this game. We came out and showed what we had."

Prior to the back-to-back fumbles, OLSM had the ball on Dakota's 33, but wound up going back 14 yards thanks to three penalties called on the drive and ended up having to punt.

"That's a lot of mistakes down the stretch," Porritt said.

Dakota opens up MAC Red Division play next week against Eisenhower.

"It's not a league win, it's not a playoff game, but it's a win," Baur said. "We got Ike next week to start league play."

Last Updated: 8/25/2016 10:42:38 PM EST