LAKE LINDEN - Saturday, the Lake Linden-Hubbell Lakes ran into a Hurley, Wis., squad that was bigger, badder and just plain better.
The result was a 30-20 Midget victory as an LL-H squad attempting to rise back into the upper echelon of the Great Western Conference ran into a Hurley team already there.
"Hurley and Lake Linden had the same exact game plan today: Play offense, and they did a better job of doing it. They did an incredible job. They're coached so well. We couldn't sustain drives and they could and that's the difference in the ballgame," LL-H coach Andy Crouch said.
The Lakes countered 12- and 10-play Hurley scoring drives with an 11-play effort of their own in the first half, then pounced on a golden opportunity just before halftime when the Midgets snapped a ball over the punter's head, leading to a game-tying touchdown. In the second half, Hurley turned those early body blows into big plays and the necessary cushion.
"I think just the fact that they stuck with the plan, came out of halftime with a lot of fire, that was a big reason why we won this game," Hurley coach Scott Erickson said.
Power offense held sway in the early going. Both teams scored after long initial drives: Hurley via Mark Saari's 4-yard run and LL-H on a 1-yard dive from Tylor Rickard. Saari cashed in on another short run from 3 yards out and the Midgets then became the first team to break serve when Roman Lupino intercepted an ill-advised pass from a running Mitchel Kumpula.
Hurley 6 8 8 8 - 30
LL-Hubbell 8 6 0 6 - 20
HUR - Mark Saari, 4-yard run (run failed), 7:06
LLH - Tylor Rickard, 1-yard run (Tyler Roose run), 1:06
HUR - Saari, 3-yard run (Saari run), 7:34
LLH - Lucas Klein, recovered fumble in endzone (run failed), 27.5
HUR - Roman Lupino, 61-yard run (Jared Wendt pass from James Sukanen), 7:44
HUR - Saari, 57-yard run (Lupino run), 10:46
LLH - Roose, 1-yard run (run failed), 3:52
Total offense - HUR 290 (269 rush, 21 pass), LLH 191 (110 rush, 81 pass); First downs - HUR 11, LLH 9; Rushing - HUR, Saari 19-145 2 TDs, Lupino 11-92 TD, Mitchell Maki 7-47; LLH, Rickard 9-49 TD, Mitchel Kumpula 6-21, Roose 10-19, Cole Beauchamp 13-18; Passing - HUR, Sukanen 2-3-21; LLH, Kumpula 4-10-81 1 INT; Receiving - HUR, Lupino 1-21, Maki 1-10; LLH, Beauchamp 2-46, Konrad Klein 1-18, Roose 1-7.
The Lakes already had their first stop of the game late in the second half, and instead of letting Hurley run out the clock on fourth down, LL-H called a timeout to make the Midgets kick it. They didn't, because the snap was off Hurley punter Zach Ofstad's fingertips and chased into the end zone where Lucas Klein fell on it, making the first half look much different than it did just seconds before.
Erickson called it "an unbelievable scenario."
"That's why coaches make people punt from their own end zone, because everybody gets a little nervous there, and all of a sudden, woof! It's over their head and you've got big-time problems," he said.
Compounding his consternation, Hurley then fumbled the ensuing kickoff, but nothing came of it, or of LL-H's first drive of the third quarter, a three-and-out. The Midgets got back to work immediately, as Lupino rode an army of blockers around the right side for a 61-yard touchdown and a permanent lead.
Pinned in its own end on their next drive, Hurley had another punt situation. The snap was high but snared and though the Lakes' Josh Poisson had a shot at the punt, he got only the punter and a 15-yard roughing penalty. Two plays later the Midgets turned their reprieve into points as Saari broke through the middle on a 57-yard score for what became a 30-14 edge.
The Lakes got back on track but in too low a gear to beat the clock. After 16 plays, Tyler Roose broke through on a 1-yard dive, but after failing to get the two-point conversion, LL-H needed two possessions to tie and got none.
"On the line of scrimmage, they're pretty big. Some of those kids have been playing there for three years, plus they've got the size factor on us. They're good. Their line played better than ours did today and we need to get better at it. We will get better at it," Crouch said.
The Midgets ran for 269 yards and held the Lakes to 110, though an effective passing game extended several LL-H possessions.
Saari finished with 145 yards on 19 carries. The Lakes got 49 yards on nine attempts from Rickard, while Kumpula threw for 81 yards on 4-of-10 attempts.
"We know the passes that they're gonna throw, it's just when they throw them and I thought today, we were not in the position we should have been to make those plays. It went over our guys' heads and we were late getting there. That is inexcusable, but then again, that's Saturday afternoon in Lake Linden. Things happen," Erickson said.
The Midgets (3-0, 1-0 GWC) face another tough league test when they host Forest Park Friday. LL-H (1-1, 1-1) continues a three-game homestand with a non-league visit from North Central Saturday.