Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes defenders Zach Zednik (30) and Jake Glover (32), break up what could have been a game winning catch for Melvindale ABT receiver Taylor Devante (center) during varsity football action at Lakes Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013. (The Oakland Press / LARRY McKEE)
FOOTBALL: WOLL holds on for tough win WITH TOUT VIDEOS
Sean Thomas (28), Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes, picks up yardage while slicing between two Melvindale ABT defenders during varsity football action at Lakes Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013. (The Oakland Press / LARRY McKEE)
Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes defenders Charlie Loeffler (74) and Donald Lochbiler (88) force a fumble from Melvindale ABT running back Worthy Kyran during varsity football action at Lakes Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013. (The Oakland Press / LARRY McKEE)
Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes running back Christian Heiss stretches out for extra yardage during varsity football action against Melvindale ABT at Lakes Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013. (The Oakland Press / LARRY McKEE)
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WATERFORD — Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes head coach Joshua Sawicki said it felt like he got an elephant off his chest after his Lakers held on to give the first year coach his first victory 19-18 over Melvindale ABT Saturday afternoon.
The Lakers (1-2) took a 10-0 lead into the second half, but Melvindale (1-2) relied on big plays to get within one point and a 4th-and-15 from the Laker 21-yard-line with under a minute to play. As senior quarterback Kyran Worthy tossed the ball into the end zone, just one thing was going through Sawkicki’s mind.
“Somone better make a play.”
Fortunately for the Lakers, junior cornerback Houston Neko was able to get a hand on the pass to deny the Gators scoring opportunity.
“Coach Boyd told me everything’s going to go wrong your first year,” Sawicki said. “It just seems like we’ve had a lot of things not go our way. We gave one away last week and we held on this week. Taking over a program like this, it’s an elephant off of my chest.”
The Lakers offense was able to move the ball well both on the ground and in the air for most of the day. Senior tailback Sean Thomas racked up 136 yards on 24 carries.
“He’s a large percentage of our offense,” Sawicki said. “He’s a kid who didn’t have a bad year last year, but he wasn’t getting to his potential. He came up to me and said, ‘I’ll do whatever you tell me to do, just make me a great player.’”
Sophomore quarterback Clay Senerius was efficient in the air, tossing 103 yards on 10-of-16 passing with just one interception.
That interception was a costly one for the Lakers as sophomore defensive back Deonte Vanpelt made a nifty 75-yard return for the score. A personal foul after the touchdown forced the Gators to try for two from the 18-yard-line, which they failed to convert, making the score 19-18 with just under nine minutes to play.
One of the key plays of the game came as time expired in the third quarter when Lakes was able to down a punt at the 1-yard-line. The Lakers were able to turn it into two points when they ganged up to pull the quarterback down in the endzone for a safety, pushing their lead to 19-12.
In addition to the pick-six, the Lakers fumbled the ball away two times in the second half, including in the red zone with just three minutes to play, that eventually set up the fateful fourth down play.
“I got the yards I needed to,” Thomas said, “but at the crunch times I gave the ball up, and that’s just not needed. Ball security is job security.”
Lakes walked away with a win, but paid a physical price for the victory. There were enough injuries to give Sawicki some restless nights.
“(We were) banged up enough to lose some sleep,” he said. “It’s better when you’re banged up and you win, but my guy Vinny Puma was taken off on a stretcher. That’s kinda your worst nightmare. Then, (junior wide receiver Nick) Robak got a little dinged in the head.”
Puma suffered an apparent neck injury after receiving a tough hit on a short running play in the fourth quarter. He walked off the field, but later felt stiff and dizzy before being taken to the hospital.
The Lakers may have to rely on some backups next Saturday when they travel to Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood (2-1) to begin league action in the Catholic League Intersectional division.