By Mark Lewis
Local Sports Journal
SPRING LAKE – If Spring Lake’s contest Friday night versus Lakes 8 rival Ludington (2-5, 2-3) was a sandwich, it would have been the world’s best bread atop and below the world’s worst meat.
That is, the host Lakers (4-3, 3-2) were unstoppable in the beginning and the end of the game, but looked like ground round in the middle.
Nevertheless, the Lakers were able to use a fast start to build a 28-0 first-half lead and then cruised to the 41-21 victory over the Orioles.
“We played a really good first half,” said Laker head coach Jerry Rabideau. “But the third quarter was just a debacle.”
Debacle or not, the Lakers certainly benefitted from the return of junior sparkplug Chase Slagboom, who, after sitting out the last four weeks, scored on the opening kickoff, on an 88-yard return that made it, following Carter Bench’s successful point-after kick, 7-0.
Just over 4 minutes later, the Lakers again benefitted from some good luck, as senior corner Johnny Mundt picked up a fumble and rambled 37 yards for the second score of the night.
“Those two plays caught us off guard,” said Oriole head coach Charlie Gunsell, whose squad turned over the ball seven times. “We were shocked a little bit and it took us awhile to get back on track.”
In fact, it took another whole quarter for the Orioles to stop the bleeding. The Lakers again scored, this time mid way through the second quarter, on a seven play, 64-yard drive capped by quarterback Mark Williamson’s 14-yard keeper run to make it 21-0.
Spring Lake added one more first-half score, when Williamson connected with Slagboom from 31 yards away to put the hosts up by four scores.
“(Slagboom) is a true, true football player,” said Rabideau. “He just makes plays, gets to the ball.”
While the first half was all Lakers, though, Ludington flipped the script in the third quarter. After trading interceptions to start the second half, the Lakers finally got on the board when Oriole QB Chad Large threw an 11-yard TD strike to receiver Trevor Wahr to make it, following Fosland Vegard’s PAT, 21-7.
“We feel like we can score,” said Gunsell, whose team averages more than 30 points per game. “We just can’t turn over the ball seven times.”
Ludington inched closer on its next possession. The Orioles, benefitting from a Laker punt that traveled minus-10 yards, set up shop on the Laker 15 and needed seven plays to score, on another 11-yard TD toss from Large to Wahr to make it 28-14.
And then Williamson, getting rushed from every direction, fumbled deep in Laker territory to give the Orioles possession on the Spring Lake seven.
Two plays later, however, the Oriole comeback bid was dashed as the Lakers gobbled up a Ludington fumble on the goal line and proceeded to march 96 yards, capped by a 66-yard scoring scamper by Cody Berkobien.
Bad luck struck the Orioles again on their next possession, as Jake Kacynski, just inches away from capping a 58-yard TD run, fumbled – due to a Slagboom last-second ball strip – out of the back of the end zone, giving the Lakers first-and-10 on their own 20.
The Orioles’ Large and the Lakers’ Berkobien added late scores to provide the final result.
“This was a huge win for us,” said Rabideau, as fans and the student body celebrated the Homecoming victory. “If we’re able to beat (winless) Tri-County next week, it sets up a real exciting season finale’ right here against Shelby in two weeks.”
For Ludington, the loss was instructive.
“We can’t turn it over that much against anyone, especially a conference opponent, and expect to win,” Gunsell lamented. “If we take care of the ball, we will be successful more often than not.”
Berkobien led all rushers with 207 yards on 18 carries and two scores, while Laker teammate Mundt added 57 yards on six carries.
Large led the Orioles on the ground with 135 yards on 26 carries and a score.
Large finished with 8-for-22 passing for 132 yards, while Williamson went 7-for-18 for 103 yards through the air.
Ludington’s Trevor Overholt was the game’s leading receiver, pulling four catches for 65 yards; Wahr had just two catches, both for scores, for 22 yards.
Slagboom led the Lakers with one grab for 31 yards and a score, with teammate AJ Lisman added two catches for 22 yards.
Defensively, Lisman led the way with seven stops, while three Oriole defenders – Ian Cummins, Overholt and Alex English – each finished with six stops.
Lakers Mundt and Zach Kennedy each added five stops apiece.