LL-H wears down L’Anse for 38-14 win

LAKE LINDEN – For 24 minutes Saturday, the visiting L’Anse Purple Hornets stood toe-to-toe with the Lake Linden-Hubbell Lakes at Warner Athletic Field. The two local football giants traded blows like heavyweight boxers, each taking a blow and then responding with one of their own.

Unfortunately for the Hornets, high school varsity football games last 48 minutes, which is more of a marathon than a sprint. As the Hornets ran out of gas, the Lakes exposed and exploited weaknesses in the Hornets’ line, which was playing without junior Tyler Yowell, running their way to a 38-14 victory.

Yowell was lost mid-week to an injury that will cost him his season, and the Hornets missed his 6-foot-0, 390-pound frame in the middle of their defensive line, as the Lakes ran for 356 yards, 160 of which belonged to senior Brendan Middleton.

“Lake Linden really took it to us there in the second half,” said Hornets head coach Mark Leaf. “They beat us on the line of scrimmage. Middleton had a nice game for them there. He was their key guy.”

For the Lakes, Saturday’s contest was much more familiar football than their season opener against Hancock. Middleton carried the ball 20 times for 160 yards and four touchdowns, junior Aaron Hainault had 16 carries for 125 yards rushing and a score, senior Steven Suhonen had seven for 56 yards, and senior Bradley Moilanen had four as the hosts ran the ball 51 times to pound on the Hornets’ line until it broke.

“We made great strides from last week to this week,” said Lakes head coach Andy Crouch. “Last week against Hancock, we did not block very well at all. Today we did a nice job.

“We were not very complicated on what we were doing, but we executed much better.”

Andy Crouch could not say enough good things about the way his linemen performed under pressure.

“Those guys did a great job of blocking,” said Crouch. “We had some nice holes today. As the game wore on, we kind of wore them down a bit and those holes got a little bit bigger. They did a nice job up front for us.”

After a scoreless first quarter, the teams traded punches until the Hornets jumped ahead 14-12 on a 13-yard run by junior Foster Miller with 3:15 left in the half. After a failed 2-point conversion, the Lakes got the ball back, looking to answer.

A strong return was bolstered by a flag against a Hornets’ defender for facemasking, putting the Lakes on the L’Anse 45 to open their drive. Hainault busted out a 14-yard run to start things strong. He added another of 8 yards two plays later.

The Lakes pushed down to the 1-yard line before freshman Carter Crouch came up short on a quarterback keeper. With the clock winding down, Andy Crouch called timeout with 1.6 seconds left, called Middleton’s number and then sat back and watched as his veteran ran the ball across the line as time expired to give the Lakes the lead, 18-14. Middleton then ran the 2-point conversion in as well.

The Lakes, who had deferred until the second half, got the ball back to start the third quarter. Starting on their own 24-yard line, the Lakes ran just three plays before the cracks in the Hornets’ defense gave way as Middleton broke through a tackle and raced 58 yards for his fourth touchdown of the day. While Suhonen’s attempt at the 2-point conversion failed, the damage was done.

After forcing another Hornets’ punt, the Lakes started on their own 25. After six plays where the Lakes managed just 21 yards total, Hainault exploded for 54 yards and another Lake Linden touchdown with 5:29 remaining in the quarter.

The Hornets stalled again when senior Chase Sullivan missed on his eighth pass attempt of the day, setting the Lakes up with good field position on their own 41.

The ensuing drive for the Lakes appeared to stall as well until they ran a little trickery.

Lining up for a punt, the snap went directly to Hainault, who surprised the Hornets defense and ran for seven yards. While L’Anse was reeling from that blow, Carter Crouch dropped back and found Middleton open on the left side and he raced 46 yards for the final Lakes’ score.

After Middleton broke the scoreless tie in the second quarter, the Hornets responded quickly three plays later as Sullivan found junior Chase Parker for a 60-yard touchdown that stunned the still-celebrating Lakes’ crowd.

Middleton answered for the Lakes seven plays later when he broke two tackles and scampered home from 23 yards out into the right corner.

Up next, L’Anse hosts Westwood, while LL-H faces Iowa-Grant, Wisc. at Tomahawk, Wisc.