Walled Lake Western passed its first big test of the season and remains undefeated and in the pole position in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association (KLAA) North Division race.
The Warriors defeated Huron Valley Lakeland at home, 32-7, on Friday, Sept. 16 to move to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the KLAA North, tying them with Walled Lake Central for first-place in the division.
Lakeland fell to 2-2 overall and 1-1 in the KLAA North, tying it with Walled Lake Northern, but became the first team to hold Western to under 50 points this season.
“We drove the ball well, but we had our first fumble of the season and we were 50-50 in the first half,” said Western Head Coach Mike Zdebski. “Lakeland did a nice job controlling the ball. We had only one possession in the third quarter.”
While it was a double-digit victory for Western, the game was not as lopsided as the score would indicate, as the Warriors led 15-0 at halftime after a 1-yard touchdown run by Connor Ruby and a Kyle Bambard 2-point conversion pass to Cam Vieaux in the first quarter, followed by a 15-yard touchdown run by Alex Buchanan in the second quarter.
The third quarter was scoreless before the Eagles finally got on the scoreboard, as Casey Palanca threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Charles Sanders to pull the Eagles within 8.
Kyle Bambard then kicked a 38-yard goal for the Warriors and the Eagles looked to respond.
However, the Eagles fumbled the ball near midfield and Western made them pay, as C.J. McGorisk threw a 51-yard touchdown strike to Ruby to put Western ahead 25-7.
Brent Zdebski then finished off Lakeland with a 39-yard touchdown run as he finished with 116 yards rushing on 22 carries.
Buchanan had 103 yards rushing on 7 carries for Western while McGorisk completed 4-of-6 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown.
Palanca completed 5-of-15 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown for Lakeland, while Sanders had only 3 catches for 39 yards and a touchdown.
The Warriors held the Eagles to only 80 yards rushing while 294 of Western’s 399 total yards came on the ground. However, Lakeland controlled the time of possession with 24 minutes and 10 seconds compared to Western’s 23 minutes and 50 seconds.
“It’s was a tough game, their offensive and defensive lines wear you down, but our boys hung tough,” said Lakeland Head Coach John Maltese.
“We wanted to take away their run and we did that for the most part, but they had a couple big runs. Western was just a little more talented in the end.”
Brent Zdebski had 6 tackles for Western in addition to forcing and recovering a fumble, while Vincent Gjokaj had 5 tackles and 2 sacks on the night.
Sanders and Josh Orlando each finished with 7 tackles for Lakeland, who will look to recover on Friday, Sept. 23 when the Eagles welcome winless Waterford Kettering.
Meanwhile, Western will host Walled Lake Northern, which will provide another test for Mike Zdebski’s Warriors.
“Northern’s skilled kids are their strengths, and we have to keep them in front of us and have our assignments because they play option football,” Mike Zdebski said. “We have to control the ball. As long as we continue to focus on our next opponent and not look ahead, we’ll be competitive and have a chance each game.”