Defense delivers again for LHS
Lions gain just 87 yards but squeak out 14-11 victory at Shawnee Heights
Tecumseh On paper, the statistics make no sense whatsoever.
The mere fact that the Lansing High football team turned the ball over three times and mustered just 87 yards of offense against Shawnee Heights paints the picture of an ugly loss for LHS on Friday night.
Then consider that 51 of the Lions' yards came on one play - a jaw-dropping diving catch by senior Justin Smith. That means that their other 34 plays accounted for a stagnant 36 yards.
There's no way Lansing could win, right?
Just like it has done for most of the season, the LHS defense once again provided the spark necessary to deliver a victory. This time it was a 14-11 come-from-behind win, and it gave the Lions an early edge in the district playoffs.
"Everybody's busting their tails trying to win," LHS coach Bill Pekarek said. "But we've had some guys making some fantastic plays when the chips are on, when the money's on the table. It's great to see. We're fortunate to come out of this game with a win. We've had some adversity this week and our guys kept fighting through it, and it was a great team win."
The adversity came in the form of a first-quarter suspension of starting quarterback Bobby Hauver. The offense sputtered in his absence, and the T-Birds capitalized by scoring a quick touchdown on a one-yard quarterback sneak by Sam Vossen. Matt Kobbeman ran for the two-point conversion and put Heights ahead 8-0 with 6:51 left in the first quarter.
Lansing mustered six plays on its second drive before punting. Vossen then completed a 65-yard pass to Andrew Taliaferro. Justin Smith's open-field tackle prevented a touchdown, but a 22-yard field goal by Scot Tibbs made it 11-0 with 1:05 left in the opening quarter.
Even with Hauver back in the lineup, the LHS offense continued to struggle in the first half. In fact, it mustered only one yard of offense before intermission compared to 180 by Heights.
The T-Birds had a golden opportunity to expand their lead late in the second quarter when they had first and goal at the two-yard line, but the Lions' defense held firm. Brad Terron and David Dickson stuffed Austin Flohrschutz for a two-yard loss on the first play. Then Dickson stuck Tyler Pfeifer at the one-yard line. Mycol Bowen stopped Flohrschutz inches from the goal line on third down and then roadblocked Vossen's quarterback sneak on fourth down.
"That was huge," Bowen said of the defensive stand that caused the momentum to shift 1:11 before halftime. "Being down 11 instead of 17 : it's just huge."
It was only the first of a series of defensive dandies that gradually gave the Lions some swagger.
Lansing came out at the start of the third quarter and immediately pinned Heights on its own 10-yard line with the opening kickoff. After back-to-back stops at the line of scrimmage, senior Brendan Becker sacked Vossen.
Then came the ensuing punt.
"I was thinking there's no way I'm getting in here," junior Brenton Smith said. "And the guard didn't block me."
A track standout, Smith slashed through the defense and blocked the punt. The Lions recovered on the four-yard line. Two plays later Hauver scored on a quarterback sneak. Matt Robbins' extra point pulled them within 11-7 with 9:52 left in the third quarter.
Within a matter of minutes the Lions were back in the game.
"That touchdown was all we needed to get going," center Zach Robinson said. The offense started moving a little bit, and the defense kept it tight all night."
Even with the touchdown, the offense still was slow to come around. Instead, it relied on the defense to win the battle for field position. On the ensuing kickoff the Heights returner misplayed the ball and was tackled on the six-yard line by Stephen Didde. After a brief drive the T-Birds were forced to punt. Hauver threw a quick interception, but the LHS defense forced another punt. The Lions then had a quick three-and-out, but the drive was prolonged when Dickson booted a 36-yard punt that was fumbled. Robinson pounced on the ball and gave the offense new life. Another Hauver interception cut the drive short, but the defense forced yet another punt, and this time the offense did its part.
Facing third and long, Hauver launched a deep pass to senior Kevin Johnson. Johnson was tripped up by Kobbeman for a pass interference penalty, but that would be declined because Justin Smith tracked down the ball and hauled in a diving 51-yard reception. After four runs by Hauver and another by senior Chris Hill, Hauver fired a quick screen to Johnson on the left sideline. Johnson shook off a tackler, cut back and followed Didde's blocking while dashing into the endzone for a 21-yard score. Robbins' kick put LHS ahead 14-11 with 4:39 to go.
"I knew Stephen was going to have that block right there and I knew the rest was up to me, so I just did what I had to do," Johnson said of the go-ahead touchdown.
Moments later Robbins intercepted a Vossen pass, and the Lions ran out the clock for the victory.
It may have been the Lions' most unlikely win of the season so far, but it was won in typical Lansing fashion - with playmakers stepping up and making plays.
"This team is full of so much character," Robinson said. "At the end of the day we find someone : someone steps up and we just come together and get it done."
Lansing (6-1) now has won five games in a row and is 1-0 in District 1 play. Heights falls to 4-3 overall and 0-1 in the district. The Lions next play at 7 p.m. Friday at Washington (5-2, 0-1).
- Heights running back Austin Flohrschutz entered the game with 1,101 yards rushing this season. Lansing held him to 44 yards on 18 carries.
- Lansing's top rusher this year, Chris Hill, had just two yards on eight carries.
- Bobby Hauver led the LHS ground game with 48 yards on 14 carries.
- Kevin Johnson caught two passes for 27 yards and a touchdown.
- Heights quarterback Sam Vossen completed seven of 13 passes for 134 yards.
- Brad Terron led the LHS defense with nine tackles.
- Brendan Becker had 1 1/2 sacks, and junior James Hughes had a 1/2 sack.
- Matt Robbins had an interception.
- Heights had 230 yards of total offense compared to just 87 for Lansing. Heights had just 50 yards of offense in the second half, however.
- Lansing was penalized five times for 38 yards. Heights had nine penalties for 68 yards.