With a 21-7 halftime lead at home, undefeated Huron Valley Lakeland appeared to be in control against Walled Lake Western and ready to take its first step toward a division championship.
But then the Warriors erupted for 28 points in the second half, including 21 in the fourth quarter, while holding Lakeland scoreless to stun the Eagles, 35-21, on the road on Friday, Sept. 7 in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association (KLAA) North Division opener for both teams.
“We just told our players that the offense is great, just catch the ball and don’t fumble,” Western Head Coach Mike Zdebski said. “We had three fumbles and two dropped balls in the first half. Defensively, Lakeland gave us one new formation that we haven’t seen, we just reviewed how to line up front.”
Western (2-1, 1-0 in the KLAA North), the defending KLAA North champion, extended its winning streak against Lakeland (2-1, 0-1 in the KLAA North) to three games and did so in a hostile environment against an Eagles team that was coming off two impressive victories to start the season, generating buzz that it may be the team to beat in the division.
Lakeland struck early in the first quarter when Ross Heiman threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Laverenz, but the Eagles missed the extra point and settled for a 6-0 lead.
Western responded when Matt Carroll scored on a 2-yard touchdown run, giving the Warriors a 7-6 lead in the first.
But Lakeland would win the second quarter as Dalton Christie scored on a 20-yard touchdown run and a 2-point conversion run before Heiman threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Beau Wilheim to give the Eagles a 14-point halftime advantage.
Both of Lakeland’s touchdowns in the second were set up by recovering Western fumbles.
Then Western showed the mettle and fortitude that was key in its run to the Division 2 state final four last season.
Josh Jones started the comeback with a 30-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to pull the Warriors within 7.
Western quarterback Kyle Bambard then took over in the fourth quarter by first tying the game at 21 on a 25-yard touchdown run.
Bambard then threw a 45-yard touchdown strike to Kyle Ford to give the Warriors the lead back.
After a key interception by Jones, Bambard then sealed the game for Western with an 18-yard touchdown run.
While it only may have been the third week of the season, Western earned an important victory against an up-and-coming contender, stating that it does not plan on giving up its division crown soon.
“For us, it was just a combination of not executing as well as we usually do and Western capitalizing on our mistakes,” Lakeland Head Coach John Maltese said. “I told them at halftime that we needed to continue doing what we’re doing. You need 11 guys each doing their part and there was a breakdown here and there.”
Bambard completed 6-of-15 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 125 yards and two touchdowns.
Carroll also finished with 56 yards rushing while Malik Green had 41 rushing yards. Josh Simmons also had four tackles to lead Western’s defense while Jones had two interceptions.
Meanwhile, Heiman completed 5-of-13 passes for 94 yards for Lakeland. Anthony Aite had 18 carries for 64 yards and Christie had 12 carries for 44 yards.
On defense, Collin Papler, Jack Flynn and Christian Gojaj each had six tackles to lead the Eagles, while Papler and Whilhelm each recovered a fumble.
Lakeland will look to recover when it faces winless Waterford Kettering on the road on Friday, Sept. 14.
“Our mistakes are correctable, we just have to look at the film. We’re hurt, but it’s not catastrophic,” Maltese said.
The Warriors will face another tough test on the road on Friday when they travel to Walled Lake Northern to face the high-scoring Knights.
“With their quarterback running, it’s like a 4-back offense and you have to slow down (Jake) Ginster and (Matt) Kosmalski,” Zdebski said.