Walled Lake Western punched its ticket to the state playoffs with a 40-29 victory at Grand Blanc on Friday, Oct. 12.
The Warriors (6-3) will be making their third straight appearance in the state tournament and 14th appearance in 17 seasons.
“We’ve been fortunate. Our kids and coaches work hard in the offseason and that allows us to be competitive,” said Western Head Coach Mike Zdebski.
The Warriors trailed the Bobcats 7-0 in the first quarter before Kyle Bambard threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Nik Heglin before the extra-point attempt was blocked, leaving Western trailing by a point.
After the Bobcats (4-4) scored in the second quarter to go up 14-6, Bambard threw a 20-yard touchdown to Josh Jones to pull Western within a point once again, 14-13.
Jones then scored again on a 1-yard touchdown run to give Western its first lead of the night, 20-14. After the Bobcats missed a field goal just before the half, Western maintained its six point lead heading into the locker room.
Out of the gate in the third quarter, Grand Blanc scored to cut Western’s lead to 21-20.
But, Jones would strike back for the Warriors as he scored on a 7-yard touchdown run and Western led 26-21 at the end of the third quarter, after a second extra-point attempt was blocked.
The Bobcats then took a 29-26 lead in the fourth quarter on a touchdown and 2-point conversion.
In the fourth, Jones would step up again when he caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Bambard before scoring on a 5-yard touchdown run.
Western’s defense held firm for the rest of the quarter and delivered a potential blow to the Bobcats’ playoff hopes.
Jones finished with 40 yards rushing, 95 yards receiving, 5 touchdowns, 11 total tackles, 3 sacks, an interception, 45 punt return yards and 44 kickoff return yards in one of the most memorable individual performances for Western in recent memory.
“Jones plays like a Division I athlete. He’s easy to pick out,” Zdebski said.
Bambard also completed 10-of-25 passes for 227 yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception to go along with 40 yards rushing.
Heglin also had 57 yards receiving on 3 catches, while Jake Neracher had 57 yards receiving on three catches.
Zach Prokes made 13 total tackles and had a sack on defense for Western, while Kyle Ford had 10 tackles and John Witkowski had 9.
Bart Williams completed 24-of-40 passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns for Grand Blanc while also rushing for 55 yards and a touchdown.
Western will conclude the regular season at home on Friday, Oct. 19 against the co-champion of the Kensington Lakes Activities Association (KLAA) Central Division, Northville.
The Mustangs are coming off a 37-0 shutout loss at the hands of Livonia Churchill in the KLAA Lakes Conference title game on Friday, Oct. 12.
“We’re going to prepare just like any other game. We’re going to see what they do best and try to defend them and get lined up right,” Zdebski said.