LAKE LINDEN - The 2011 season ended on a bittersweet note for the Lake Linden-Hubbell Lakes.
Rival Forest Park dealt LL-H the 38-8 defeat that kept it out of the MHSAA playoffs for the first time since 2003, but in that disappointment came a bright moment.
The Lakes' lone touchdown was scored by Brett Beauchamp, a running back who suffered serious injuries in a May car accident that prevented him from playing his senior season. Beauchamp, who dressed for his last home game, took a fourth-quarter handoff and scored uncontested from 30 yards out.
Forest Park head coach Bill Santilli embraces Lake Linden-Hubbell running back Brett Beauchamp after his fourth-quarter touchdown in Saturday's game at Warner Athletic Field. Beauchamp, who suffered serious injuries in a May car accident, was allowed to get a carry and a touchdown in the last home game of his senior season. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
"Coach (Bill) Santilli and his program are nothing but class," LL-H coach Andy Crouch said. "To give a kid like Brett an opportunity to carry the ball one last time, it's pretty special to a lot of people."
Crouch said that when he first visited Beauchamp in the hospital after the accident, Beauchamp was looking at letters sent to him from Forest Park players.
The possibility of honoring Beauchamp was discussed before the game.
Forest Park 8 8 16 6 - 38
LL-Hubbell 0 0 0 8 - 8
FP - Jacob Siler, 21-yard run (Jed Mongar run), 9:22
FP - Tyler Lovato, 6-yard pass from Michael Smithson (Siler run), 2:38
FP - Siler, 18-yard run (Mongar run), 8:16
FP - Lovato, 20-yard pass from Smithson (Siler run), 1:00
FP - Harrison Tomasik, 1-yard run (run failed), 11:20
LLH - Brett Beauchamp, 30-yard run (Josh Tuovila run), 6:05
First downs - Forest Park 10, LL-Hubbell 9; Total offense - Forest Park 286 (234 rush, 52 pass), LL-Hubbell 184 (127 rush, 57 pass); Rushing - FP, Siler 23-189, 3 TDs, Dennis Mongar 5-38, Jed Mongar 2-5, Brett Hietala 1-2, Harrison Tomasik 1-0, Colton LaChapelle 3-0; LLH, Beauchamp 1-30, TD, Kyle Kumpula 15-30, Beau Dupuis 11-26, Josh Tuovila 4-20, Tylor Rickard 4-16, Kyle Franks 1-8, Casey Hainault 2-(minus-3); Passing - FP, Smithson 4-9-52, 2 TDs, 1 INT; LLH, Hainault 3-6-57; Receiving - FP, Lovato 3-34, 2 TDs; J. Mongar 1-18; LLH, Tuovila 1-32, Konrad Klein 1-23, Dupuis 1-3.
"I said absolutely from our end. We didn't give it a second thought," Santilli said.
Even though there was playoff positioning on the line, the day also started with a reminder that there are things more important than football, as the Trojans' Alex Takala was taken from the field in an ambulance after suffering a head/neck injury while blocking on a first-quarter running play.
As for the game, the Trojans took the upper hand early, as Jacob Siler capped the opening drive of the game with a 21-yard touchdown run less than three minutes in. It was his first of two on the day, part of a busy day with 22 carries for 188 yards.
After Siler's first TD, LL-H hung in, forcing a punt and a Kyle Kumpula interception. However, the Lakes could not get points, with their best effort a fourth-down attempt in which quarterback Casey Hainault lost his footing at the FP 12-yard line, just a few yards short of the line to gain.
"You've got to play offense against these guys and we weren't able to sustain drives. It's hard to consistently stop them for long periods of time," Crouch said.
FP doubled its lead with just 2:38 left in the half as Michael Smithson connected with Tyler Lovato for a 6-yard TD pass.
Bad field position to start the second half cost the Lakes when, after a punt, FP took over on the LL-H 30. The Trojans needed just four plays to make it 24-0 after a Siler TD run from 18 yards out.
LL-H's next two possessions ended in fumbles, dashing any hopes for a comeback.
"We actually did some good things on offense, but we made mistakes that hurt us," Crouch said.
The Trojans' taking care of business paid off Sunday, as they earned a home game in the pre-district round of play next weekend against Stephenson.
"I thought Lake Linden made a lot of improvement on the year watching them," Santilli said. "We told our guys don't take this game lightly, that Lake Linden was gonna give us a test."
For the Lakes, Beauchamp shared leading rusher honors with Kumpula. Kumpula ran for 30 yards on 15 carries. Hainault was 3-for-6 for 57 yards in the last game for he and six other LL-H seniors.
The Lakes fell short of the postseason but were still aware that a winning campaign is still a positive outcome.
"Our kids got a lot of experience this year and hopefully, we'll come back stronger next year," Crouch said.