Lions fall just short against Chargers
LHS boasts best offensive outing of season in 27-26 loss
Lansing High football coach Bill Pekarek never second-guessed the decision to kick the extra point.
Daniel Eyerly's extra point after Joe Kohl's 10-yard touchdown reception made it a one-point game with 5:55 left in the third quarter Friday night against Santa Fe Trail. A two-point conversion would've tied the game, but Pekarek wasn't worried.
"I thought we'd score again," Pekarek said. "I thought there was a lot of time left and we'd score another touchdown."
But Lansing didn't score again. It drove inside the Trail 20-yard-line two more times - including once to the two-yard line - but failed to score either time. The end result was a 27-26 loss as the Lions fell to 0-3 for the season.
The LHS defense hooked up the offense with prime field position on its first two possessions, and the offense followed through with a pair of touchdowns. First, the Lansing defense smothered Trail on the game's opening drive as Billy Bayles and and David Dickson pegged the Chargers' running backs for losses and Angelo Barron forced and recovered a fumble on the 38-yard-line. The Lions promptly drove down the field and Kyle Grape punched home a one-yard touchdown run for a 6-0 lead.
The Lions' defense forced a three-and-out on the Chargers' second possession. The Lions then rattled off a seven-play, 53-yard drive that was capped by a 10-yard touchdown pass from J.T. Collins to Kohl. Brad Terron's extra point made it 13-0 with 5:52 left in the first quarter.
Just as it appeared the Lions were going to run away with a blowout victory, the tables turned. The Chargers' Greg Nilges took the ensuing kickoff back 25 yards to the Trail 45-yard-line. Sparked by a 42-yard completion to Ryan Fike, SFT quarterback Corey Wells led his squad into the red zone. He later rolled out and hit Josh Cauthon with a three-yard touchdown pass. The extra point made it 13-7 late in the first quarter.
Trail's touchdown started the momentum shift, but Lansing added to it by going three-and-out on its next two possessions. After the second of those failed drives, Nilges popped of a 52-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. The extra point gave the Chargers a 14-13 lead with 8:20 left in the second quarter.
Lansing looked like its next drive - a 42-yard march to the Trail 37 - had stalled out with a punt. Trail's return man muffed the kick, however, and Dickson pounced on it at the 13-yard-line. That set up a seven-yard touchdown run by Grape three plays later. Terron's extra point gave the Lions a 19-14 lead.
Lansing was back in control of the game for a whole 14 seconds. That's how long it took for Fike to dart 83 yards to the endzone after fielding the ensuing kickoff. That helped the Chargers regain a 21-19 lead 2:49 until halftime.
Trail wasn't done yet. Nilges intercepted a Collins pass that set up another Charger touchdown 67 seconds before intermission that made it 27-19.
Lansing prohibited Trail from having any big offensive plays in the second half. In fact, the Lions kept the Chargers from having any small plays, either. The Chargers accumulated just 20 yards of offense and one first down in the second half.
That defensive effort should have been enough for the Lions to come back and win the game. For a while, it looked like that would be the case.
On Lansing's first possession of the third quarter, the Lions marched 62 yards on 12 plays and scored on a 10-yard pass from Collins to Kohl. The score pulled LHS within 27-25. Instead of going for two, the Lions opted to kick the extra point and make it 27-26.
That was the last time the Lions would score.
An interception by Tim Torcio on the Chargers' ensuing possession gave the Lions the ball on the 27-yard-line. LHS pushed the ball to the 18-yard-line before the drive stalled out. Lansing had another golden opportunity to score midway through the fourth quarter when it drove 52 yards to the Trail two-yard-line. Again the drive stalled. The Lions never sniffed the endzone again.
For Lansing, the loss stung because it was so close, as well as because LHS had so many chances to win the game.
Fortunately for the Lions, they had plenty of positives to take from the game. One obvious bright spot was the defense's dominant play in the second half. The other cause for optimism was that the Lions had success on offense for the first time in three games. After compiling just 62 total rushing yards during the first two games, The Lions rumbled for 225 yards on the ground against the Chargers. Kyle Grape led a balanced attack with 83 yards on 20 carries. J.T. Collins had 75 hards on 10 carries. Daniel Eyerly had 67 yards on 15 carries.
"We know we've got to run the ball better, so we just really worked our running game," Pekarek said.
Friday's performance also was without question Lansing's best outing of the season. In addition to the stellar defensive second half, the Lions compiled a season-high 305 total yards of offense. That was far better than the Chargers' 177 yards of offense.
"We had a lot of good practices this week compared to how we have been practicing," Dickson said of Lansing's improvement. "Our offense, we moved the ball. We made some more mistakes on defense, but we'll work on it."
Lansing next plays at 7 p.m. Friday at home against Bonner Springs. A pregame tailgate party will begin at 5 p.m. The homecoming king and queen will be announced at halftime of the game.
- Junior linebacker David Dickson led Lansing in tackles for the second game in a row. He had a team-high 12 tackles.
- Brad Terron and Joe Kohl had seven tackles apiece.
- Lansing piled up 16 first downs, compared to just four for Santa Fe Trail.
- Joe Kohl led all Lansing receivers with four catches for 50 yards. He has been the Lions' top pass-catcher in all three games this season.
- J.T. Collins completed nine of 14 passes for 80 yards.
- Lansing held Trail to just 85 yards rushing on 28 carries. Fifty-two of those yards came on Greg Nilges' long touchdown run. Other than that carry, Trail mustered just 33 yards rushing on 27 carries.