Lakes put their stamp on win at Hancock

HANCOCK – It was on the road, under the lights and on artificial turf, but no matter the setting, the second half of Friday’s non-league football game was pure Lake Linden-Hubbell football.

Protecting a 12-6 halftime lead, the Lakes churned out back-to-back 14-play drives to break the spirits of the host Hancock Bulldogs and complete a 24-6 victory.

Oddly enough, the Lakes overturned an early deficit, then took the lead on back-to-back short drives in the second quarter. But taking the second-half kickoff with a six-point lead, they imposed their will on the Bulldogs and ran 9:06 off the clock.

The climactic play was a pass from Mitchel Kumpula to Konrad Klein on a crossing route, and the senior scored from 23 yards out.

“We talk about this all the time, about shortening the game and this was one of the best drives we’ve had of the season, probably eight, nine minutes and then scored,” LL-H coach Andy Crouch said.

LL-H’s second drive of the half ended in a turnover inside the 10-yard line, but after starting on the last play of the third quarter and ending with 5:22 to play, the offense had drained the clock more than adequately.

The Lakes’ defense then finished the job, keeping the Bulldogs far from the end zone, eliminating their ground threat and keeping quarterback Tanner Kearly busy with blitzing pressure.

“We got good pressure on Tanner. He’s a fine quarterback and we got a little bit of pressure on him and that helped us out. And when we got the lead and we knew they had to throw it on us, that helped too,” Crouch said.

The Lakes faced tough times first. After connecting on a deep pass from Kearly to Alex Almquist, the Bulldogs got down to the 1-yard line. On fourth and goal, Almquist drew a pass interference flag in the end zone, but unlike the pros, pass interference is no longer an automatic first down in high school as of this year. On fourth down number two, Riley Engman was stopped well short of the goal line.

The reprieve didn’t last long, as LL-H went three and out, hit a short punt, and gave up points four plays later when Kearly hit Kyle Hauswirth on a 6-yard pass.

LL-H struck back immediately, as Cole Beauchamp scooted 59 yards on the next play from scrimmage down to the Bulldog 7-yard line. Two plays later, Kumpula went around the right end to score the game-tying TD.

Tyler Roose intercepted Kearly three plays later, starting a six-play drive in which Roose was rewarded with the touchdown pass on a 24-yard play down the left.

“We handled the adversity. When bad things happened, we responded, which is a sign of maturity. We answered, and that’s what we were looking for out of these guys,” Crouch said.

Hancock had some success on the ground in the first half through speedy tailback Riley Engman, who had 50 yards on nine carries. One play after breaking a 38-yard run on a pitch, Engman exited permanently with an apparent concussion.

“He ran the ball very well and after that we kind of struggled, but we have three of four capable running backs who can step up,” Hancock coach Matt Walter said.

Though the Bulldogs only ran for 47 yards, it wasn’t just the backs who had an off night.

“Their defense is tough, they’re aggressive, they send their backers and we prepared for it all week and we didn’t do very good tonight,” he said.

Kearly connected on a few late passes to move the Bulldogs in the last six minutes, but Nic Walli collected a deflected pass to shut Hancock down for good. Andrew Hammes tacked on an insurance TD a few plays later.

Kearly finished 9-for-24 for 118 yards. Kumpula went 5-for-9 for 74 yards and two scores.

Beauchamp finished with 103 rush yards on 18 attempts, but Roose and Walli also had 60-plus for the Lakes, who had 281 team yards on the ground.

“Our backs ran hard, got the positive yards and we didn’t put the ball on the ground too many times,” Crouch said.

The win helps the Lakes (4-2) immensely in terms of playoff positioning, as would another in next Saturday’s Homecoming game against Houghton.

Hancock falls to 2-4 and must run the table, starting with Friday’s trip to Ironwood, to be considered for the postseason.