HOUGHTON - Forty degree chills. Frigid winds. And a truly uncomfortbale combination of rain and hail made for brutal conditions Friday night as Houghton football hosted Lake Linden-Hubbell.
The weather also put the game right in the Lakes' wheelhouse.
Lake Linden has been, is and always will be - at least while head coach Andy Crouch still stalks the sidelines - a no-frills running team. They line up with three in the backfield and come after the defense on the ground virtually every play, no matter the down or distance.
Lake Linden-Hubbell junior Cole Beachamp returns a punt early in the first quarter Friday at Houghton. The Lakes scored on their first two drives of the game and won 22-8. (DMG photo by Michael Bleach)
That type of attitude matched perfectly with the conditions Friday night, and the Lakes (4-3) won comfortably 22-8, rebounding from a 28-18 loss to Hancock last weekend.
"We challenged our kids this week to play football the way Lake Linden football plays," Crouch said. "There aren't too many passes. We are going to run the ball, no matter what.
"Plus it shortens the game, and I think everyone appreciates that," he added with a laugh.
LL-Hubbell 14 8 0 0 - 22
Houghton 0 8 0 0 - 8
LL-H - Trent Ambuehl 2-yard run (run fail), 5:48
LL-H - Mitchel Kumpula 2-yard run (Beau Dupuis run), 1:46
Hou - Sam Bethancourt, 41 yard pass from Ben Collaer (Collaer run), 8:05
LL-H - Cody Kumpula, 29-yard run (Tylor Rickard run), 0:39
Total offense - LL-H 231 (231 rush, 0 pass); Hou 134 (93 rush, 41 pass). First downs - LL-H 14; Hou 6; Rushing - LL-H, Cody Kumpula, 120/17, 1 TD; Hou, Collaer 59/11; Passing - LL-H none; Hou, Collaer 1/3, 41 yards, 1 TD; Receiving - LL-H none; Hou, Bethancourt 1/41, 1 TD.
With a noticeably amped up team, celebrating after every tackle, Lake Linden held Houghton (0-7) to consecutive three-and-outs on their first two drives of the game, giving the offense excellent field position at the 35- and 12-yard line of the Gremlins.
A seven-play march and five-play drive gave the Lakes a quick 14-0 lead.
"Our kids wanted it today and that was evident from the start," Crouch said. "It was a (heck) of an improvement from last week and hopefully we can build off it."
Trent Ambuehl walked in from two yards out for the first score and quarterback Mitchel Kumpula plunged in for the second touchdown.
All told, the Lakes churned out 231 yards on the ground (on 47 carries), with seven different players getting in on the action.
"I would love to have a halfback who is 6-foot-2, 230 pounds who can hammer it, but we have a lot of kids who birng a lot of different things to our offense," Crouch said. "They all played very well tonight."
The final score of the game, and a gut-wrencher for Houghton to give up, came with less than 50 seconds to go in the half and Lake Linden facing a third-and-three on the 29-yard line.
A fake to running back Beau Dupuis drew the Gremlins defense in, and Cody Kumpula took the ball wide left with one defender to beat. The elder Kumpula won the race to the corner, and sprinted in for a 29-yard score, deflating any sense of confidence Houghton may have gained from a previously successful defensive stop.
"With high school kids, momentum is a big thing," Crouch said. "We were able to use it to our advantage and we dodged a couple of bullets."
The final Lakes touchdown came after Houghton pulled within one score on a fourth-and-16, 41-yard touchdown bomb from sophomore fullback/quarterback Ben Collaer to sophomore wide receiver Sam Bethancourt.
Collaer easily earned player of the game honors for Houghton, as the bruising sophomore busted his way up the gut for 59 yards on 11 carries.
"It was a good, physical game," Crouch said. "There was just a lot of hitting going on. You know what, I'll tell you, Houghton is a pretty good team for 0-7. They have some good football players over there, the future looks bright."
Lake Linden had a touchdown wiped off the board with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter after an "inadvertant" whistle stopped a play early, when the referees, along with Houghton's defense, seemed confused as to which Lake had the ball.
With the weather conditions worsening, Crouch gave just a brief argument.
The Lakes host unbeaten North Dickinson next Saturday.
"We have to be consistent now," Crouch said. "We have to play the whole game like we did the first quarter."