DISTRICT CHAMPS: 24-6 pounding of Piper seals title
When Lansing High's football team lost its first two games of the season by lopsided margins, early-season grumblings were prevalent about the direction the team was headed.
Following their 24-6 pounding of Piper on Friday night, however, the buzz around town is that this bunch of Lions is a legit state title contender. They've won six straight since that slow start. The offense has been more effective each game. The defense has hit harder and shut teams down when it mattered.
The victory over Piper, matched with last week's 37-34 victory against Basehor-Linwood in triple-overtime, gives the Lions a 2-0 record in district play. Thursday night's foe, Bishop Ward, fell to 0-2 in district play with its loss to the Bobcats.
Ward's loss gives Lansing its first district title since 1998.
"We start talking to our guys about playoffs right from the get-go at our first meetings," LHS coach Bill Pekarek said. "Our guys are responding and we're coming on at the right time."
That much was evident against the Pirates.
The primary threat Piper posed heading into Friday night's game was its air attack. Specifically, senior quarterback Garrett Weddle and senior wide receiver Alex Angelotti have lit up opposing defenses on a regular basis. That had LHS coach Bill Pekarek concerned, especially given the fact Lansing's defense isn't as big or as athletic as that of most teams it's played this year.
Pekarek knew his squad had unflinching heart, though, and it was that heart that carried the Lions through. Starting with Piper's very first possession it was apparent the Pirates were going to have a long night.
Lansing took a 7-0 lead on its first possession with a 26-yard touchdown run by quarterback Matt Warner. Then the LHS defense forced a quick three-and-out as it smothered Weddle with pressure.
"I thought that was real key to setting the tempo for the first half," Pekarek said.
Weddle completed one pass to Angelotti all night, and only guided the Pirates into the end zone once. His nine-yard touchdown pass to Josh Wille 6:13 left in the second quarter pulled Piper within 7-6, but the extra point try failed. Lansing responded with a 11-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by Jeff Slater's 15-yard run.
Lansing's 14-6 halftime lead was all it needed because the defense locked up Piper for the rest of the game. The Lions added two insurance scores in the fourth quarter, however, when John Tytla booted a 38-yard field goal and Slater added a 13-yard touchdown run.
Pekarek said he was proud of his team for playing so well on both sides of the ball and attributed its steady progress to his players' steady focus and the attention to detail of his assistant coaches.
"I think we're running the ball better at times, but I still think we can do a little better on it," Pekarek said. "We probably didn't score as many times as we should have, but I thought our guys were more physical.
"I thought we were physically better, I think we're coming off the ball good, I think we're tackling good. I just think we're doing more things. We've gotten better every week. I think our guys have improved in some way every week, and I'm happy with that. We just keep plugging away."
Slater led Lansing with 130 yards rushing on 28 carries. It was his first 100-yard game of the season. Lance Fink added 59 yards on 16 carries most of them for drive-preserving first downs. Warner also rushed for 37 yards and completed seven of 12 passes for 58 yards.