LAKE LINDEN - Hancock tailback Ross Michaels had a day to remember - and one for the Lake Linden-Hubbell Lakes to forget - Saturday afternoon at sun-drenched Warner Field.
The Bulldogs senior back ruined the Lakes by rushing for 238 yards in 28 carries and scored three times in a 28-18 Bulldogs victory that dampened any playoff hopes the home team had.
"We didn't have an answer for him (Michaels)," Lakes skipper Andy Crouch said afterward. "He's as a fine a running back as we'll see. He's tough and cuts well, just a very tough offensive player."
For his part, Michaels gave full credit to his offensive line.
"The line blocked really well today. I just ran through the holes they opened up," he said. "This is a big win for the team, we were looking to get going and we did today."
The outcome left the Crimson and Gold with a 2-4 record, while the Lakes slipped to 3-3. That leaves LL-H with the unenviable task of having to at least win two of three remaining games to have an outside shot at postseason play. The task begins Friday night with a game at Houghton, followed by a home game versus unbeaten North Dickinson and an away game against Forest Park.
Hancock 0 7 7 14 - 28
LL-Hubbell 6 0 6 6 - 18
LL - Cody Kumpula 7 run (run failed)
HA - Tanner Kearly 2 run (Brian Kass kick)
LL - Tylor Rickard 65 run (run failed)
HA - Ross Michaels 44 run (Kass kick)
HA - Michaels 26 run (Kass kick)
LL - C. Kumpula 9 run (run failed)
HA - Michaels 19 run (Kass kick)
Game stats: First downs: HA 11, LL 10; Rushing: HA 35-258; LL 40-221: Passing: HA 7-11-0-75; LL 3-10-1-30; Ind. rushing: HA Michaels 28-235; Engman 4-22; LL - Rickard 17-133; Dupuis 9-34; C. Kumpula 10-29; Receiving: Michaels 2-28. Leukuma 2-8; Kinnunen 1-24; LL - Dupuis 2-23, Roose 1-7.
Hancock coach Matt Walter said his team played with determination.
"I think the kids were frustrated by what has happened this year and we we were looking to get over the hump," Walter commented. "We hadn't beat Lake Linden in a long time and this was a huge win. I'm very proud of how we played today."
In truth, the Bulldogs' last victory over the Lakes on their home field came in 1984.
The Blue and Gold got off to a good start and drew first blood when tailback Cody Kumpula darted in from seven yards away midway through the first period. The PAT run was stopped.
The Hancock offense sputtered most of the first two quarters, despite Michaels' efforts. But the big defensive line of the 'Dawgs, led by big tackles Evan Huhta and Brandon Joyal, kept the Lakes bottled up.
Hancock mounted a drive late in the opening half which was capped by a couple of passes from quarterback Tanner Kearly to Michaels and Carl Leukuma.
The eventual winners scored when Kearly recovered his own 1-yard fumble in the end zone with just 34 seconds left in the half. Brian Kass converted the first of his four PAT kicks on the day for a 7-6 reading at intermission.
But the Lakes appeared to have momentum back on their side when junior back Tylor Rickard broke loose for a 65-yard TD scamper on just the second play of the third quarter for a 12-7 lead.
The HCHS defense stepped up and halted a Lakes drive on downs at the Hancock 24 later in third frame.
A 76-yard scoring drive was culminated when the elusive Michaels twisted his way 44 yards through the Lakes defense. That tally made it a 14-12 game.
Hancock made it 21-12 on the first play of the fourth quarter on a 26-scoring jaunt by Michaels and the kick by Kass.
The work of Beau Dupuis helped get the Lakes closer later in the final period. Dupuis, held in check most of the day, caught a 12-yard pass and ran for another 18 yards to spark a medium-sized drive that was finished off by Cody Kumpula's nine-yard scamper.
The 'Dawgs had an immediate answer as Michaels did most of the work in a 65-yard scoring drive. His 19-yard scoring run put the final score in lights.
Walters praised the work of Michaels and his big line.
"Ross is an unbelievable runner. He's shifty and one of the hardest workers on the team," the Hancock boss said. "The best thing about our line being so big ... is that he (Michaels) is small (5-foot-7) and it's tough to see him. But they did a great job of blocking today."
Kearly had a nice day throwing the ball, connecting on 7-of-11 passes for 75 yards.
Rickard picked up 133 yards in 17 carries for LL-H, but Dupuis was held to 34 yards rushing and 23 more yards in receptions.
Crouch said the size of the Bulldogs appeared to wear his team down.
"They did overpower us at times, but we just weren't consistent (in the line) in this game. We have to work on our consistency."
Hancock will host a tough Ironwood team next Friday evening in WestPAC play.