LAKE LINDEN - The horn sounded to end the first quarter, and Lake Linden-Hubbell was tied 0-0 with a high-powered North Dickinson team. It felt like a victory.
Alas, for the Lakes, the Michigan High School Athletic Association does not use fractions when counting up to six wins for automatic playoff qualification.
The Nordics, the top-ranked Division 8 team in the Upper Peninsula, busted out for 28 points in the second quarter and left Lake Linden with a 48-16 win and an undefeated regular season.
Lake Linden-Hubbell’s Konrad Klein (40), Beau Dupuis (5), and Cole Beauchamp (42) converge on North Dickinson’s Dominic Christian during the first quarter of Friday’s game at Warner Field in Lake Linden. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
"The first quarter, our kids played phenomenally on defense. They executed our plan to a 'T,' they swarmed to the ball, they tackled, they made the plays. It was a lot of fun watching our kids play like that," LL-H coach Andy Crouch said. "You can't play defense all game. Our offense, I think we had one first down in the first half, and we're not going to beat teams if we get one first down. Your defense is playing well, but you've got to get them off the field at some point and we didn't do that."
The Lakes (4-4) forced a punt, then made a stand at their 12-yard line on the Nordics' first two possessions, but couldn't get anything going in response. After a punt from deep in their own end, the visitors took possession on the LL-H 35. On the sixth play of the drive, the Nordics threw their first pass, a 25-yarder from Ken Pekarek over the Lakes' defense to Cody Berg, for the first of four touchdowns in the quarter.
"They weren't going to just roll over and play dead and we knew that," said veteran Nordics coach Joe Reddinger. "They were a scrappy bunch and Andy had them well-prepared. They took away the basic stuff we like to run, so we had to do a few things different, which is just good coaching on their part."
N. Dickinson 0 28 13 7 - 48
LL-Hubbell 0 0 8 8 - 16
ND - Cody Berg, 25-yard pass from Ken Pekarek (Logan O'Neil kick), 10:08
ND - Pekarek, 1-yard run (O'Neil kick), 7:16
ND - Tim Hruska, 45-yard run (O'Neil kick), 4:04
ND - Matt Schultz, 23-yard run (O'Neil kick), :31
LLH - Tylor Rickard, 2-yard run (Cody Kumpula run), 7:09
ND - Hruska, 31-yard run (O'Neil kick), 4:52
ND - O'Neil 44-yard interception return (kick failed), 3:12
ND - Schultz, 1-yard run (O'Neil kick), 8:18
LLH - Tyler Roose, 19-yard pass from Mitchel Kumpula (Alex Knight pass
from M. Kumpula), :18
First downs - ND 7, LLH 4; Total offense - ND 278 (210 rush, 68 pass), LLH 111 (62 rush, 59 pass); Rushing - ND, Hruska 10-94, 2 TDs, Dominic Christian 13-65, Schultz 7-36, 2 TDs; LLH, C. Kumpula 7-29, Rickard 11-19, 1 TD, Beau Dupuis 10-18; Passing - ND, Pekarek, 3-4-68, 1 TD; LLH, M. Kumpula 3-6-59, 1 TD, 1 INT; Receiving - ND, Schultz, 2-43, Berg 1-25, TD; LLH, Konrad Klein 2-40, Roose 1-19, TD.
Justin Clark recovered a strip-sack on second down of the ensuing drive to set the Nordics up at the 5. On fourth down, Pekarek scored from a yard out on a delayed QB sneak.
About three minutes later, the Nordics snuffed out an LL-H fake punt near midfield, then scored two plays later after Tim Hruska busted a 45-yard run around the left side. The Nordics converted another long pass play to quickly move their next drive into LL-H territory, then got a 23-yard TD run from Matt Schultz on a counter.
"We had a lot of people up at the line of scrimmage. They made a couple plays that took advantage of it, but that's gonna happen. If we play offense and keep them on defense, maybe, different outcome," Crouch said.
LL-H mixed in a pair of passes from Mitchel Kumpula to Konrad Klein to move the ball into scoring position to start the second half, culminating in a 2-yard TD run for Tylor Rickard, but the Nordics responded with a 31-yard Hruska TD run five plays later, then Logan O'Neil intercepted a Kumpula pass for a 44-yard touchdown that all but iced the game at 41-8.
"We've got a pretty good defensive team there. We didn't really change a whole lot of things. Our defensive line played very good and our linebackers were pretty active. We were able to really outmuscle them," Reddinger said.
Hruska led the Nordics with 94 yards on 10 carries. Dominic Christian added 65 more.
For the Lakes, Cody Kumpula was leading rusher with 29 yards on seven carries. The Lakes ran for just 62 yards as a team. Mitchel Kumpula completed 3-of-6 passes for 59 yards.
"They have the prolific offense, but their defense is very, very good. Their defensive line is the best defensive line I've seen this year, and they make up for it by having linebackers who blitz. Their offense gets all the credit, but their defense is, in my opinion, very good," Crouch said.
The Lakes carry a flicker of hope for postseason play that they'll take to Crystal Falls Friday to face the Forest Park Trojans. The Nordics are idle in Week 9 and await their opponent for a playoff home game in two weeks' time.
"It is special. Any time you can go undefeated, it's a great year, and kids will remember that for the rest of their lives," Reddinger said.