Trailing by 5 late in the fourth quarter and facing fourth down with its season on the line, Walled Lake Western quarterback Kyle Bambard knew exactly who to turn to.
Bambard threw a 25-yard touchdown pass into the hands of Nik Heglin before connecting with him again on a two-point conversion as the Warriors pulled off a 31-28 victory at home over Farmington in a Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) Division 2 pre-district game on Friday, Oct. 26.
The game-winning touchdown that came with just over two minutes left in fourth quarter saved Western from an early exit from the state playoffs after advancing to the Division 2 state semi-finals last season.
The Warriors (8-2) have now won six straight games and will hit the road on Friday, Nov. 2 to face 9-1 Fenton in a Division 2 district final.
“Our kids kept playing hard and faced a lot of adversity. In the past, 9-0 teams and have lost to 6-3 teams and it’s a different environment in the state playoffs,” Western Head Coach Mike Zdebski said.
Josh Jones scored Western’s first touchdown on a 1-yard run in the first quarter before Jordan Degreffenreed tied the score for Farmington at 7 on a 2-yard touchdown run.
In the second quarter, Troy Mitchell threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Gourdine to give the Falcons (6-4) their first lead of the night, 14-7.
Malik Green pulled the Warriors closer with a 33-yard touchdown run before Western had an extra-point attempt blocked, keeping Farmington ahead 14-13.
But, Bambard would later find Heglin for a 70-yard touchdown connection, putting Western up 20-14 at halftime.
Farmington tied the score at 20 in the third quarter thanks to a 42-yard touchdown run by Josh Craven.
Bambard gave the Warriors the lead back with his foot on a 43-yard field goal in the fourth quarter for a 23-20 advantage.
But, the Falcons then tackled Western in its own end zone for a safety to pull within one point.
Then, Gourdine stung the Warriors on defense as he intercepted Bambard and returned the ball 44 yards for a touchdown to put Farmington up 28-23, putting the pressure on Western.
The Warriors finished with two fumbles and two interceptions on the evening.
But, Bambard led his team down the field for what turned out to be a memorable comeback drive.
“They didn’t panic with the adversity, the missed tackles, the interceptions or the fumbles,” Zdebski said.
Western then had to hold off the Falcons for the final two minutes as they mounted one final drive. But, Farmington did itself in by snapping the ball over the quarterback’s head at Western’s 27-yard line and the Warriors recovered the ball, sealing a hard-earned victory.
Bambard completed 6-for-17 passes for 172 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, in addition to 32 yards rushing on 10 carries.
Heglin finished with two catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns, while Green had six rushes for 82 yards.
Josh Jones was held in check for most of the night on offense as he finished with 32 yards on nine carries while catching 2 passes for 31 yards. But, Jones did finish with seven solo tackles on the night.
“They did not let us run the ball, but we were able to throw the ball and the offensive line protected us well,” Zdebski said.
Zach Prokes led the Warriors with 11 total tackles, while John Simmons and Timone Jones each had eight total tackles.
John Witkowski also had an interception for Western, while Simmons and Melis Johnson each recovered a fumble.
Degreffenreed finished with 169 yards rushing and a touchdown for Farmington, which ended its season with a three-game losing streak.
The Warriors will next be tested against a Fenton Tigers team that knocked off state power Farmington Hills Harrison in its pre-district matchup, 22-19.
“If you can avoid penalties and turnovers as much as possible, you can go a long way,” Zdebski said.