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Lakes take a step closer to clinching playoff spot with win

HARRIS — The Lake Linden-Hubbell Lakes moved one step closer to a playoff berth with a dominant 42-0 shutout win over Bark River-Harris here Saturday in a WestPAC Iron Division matchup.

The first cracks in the Broncos’ defense appeared with a 29-yard pass from Lakes’ quarterback Carter Crouch to Cole Gregoire for the first points of the game. A failed two-point conversion left it at 6-0 with 5:47 left in the first.

Three minutes later, Lake Linden increased its lead with a breakout 79-yard run by Crouch. With a successful two-point conversion, the Lakes led 14-0 with 2:42 remaining in the first. Crouch did it again less than a minute later, punching one in from the one-yard line, and another successful two-point conversion gave the Lakes a 22-0 lead as the first quarter ticked down.

“We were in the game before they put up those points on us,” Broncos’ coach Al Stenberg said. “The first series we played okay, and we got some pushes on the offensive line. Defensively, we had a few breakdowns where people had some undisciplined play. I think we underestimated their speed a bit. They took advantage of that.”

A renewed effort from the Broncos stymied the Lakes’ offense and neither team put any more points up before the half ended.

“We played really well today,” Lakes’ coach Andy Crouch said. “Our kids played well on both sides of the ball. We got (Bark River) out of what they wanted to do in the first quarter, and defensively, we played with great emotion and physicality. I was really happy to see our kids play that way. Any time you can get a shutout with a really good team like Bark River, it’s a feather in your cap.”

Despite holding the Lakes (5-3) scoreless in the second, the Broncos found themselves on their back foot in the third. Shortly into the quarter, the Lakes’ Luke Marcotte picked off BR-H quarterback Nick Javurek at the Bark River 25-yard line.

The interception set up an 18-yard TD run by Caleb Gregoire, and a successful two-point conversion from Caleb Gregoire made it 30-0 just over three minutes into the quarter.

The Broncos (5-3) made some progress down the field, but turned it over again to Lake Linden’s Jesse Hill with a fumble. A minute later, the Lakes found the end zone on a 45-yard pass from Crouch to Caleb Gregoire to increase their lead to 36-0.

The Lakes added one more score in the fourth on a one-yard rush by Bode Brinkman.

“This was the seniors’ last home game,” Stenberg said. “We just have a lot of love for those guys. Any time you put four good years into a football program — you know high school football is not easy — and I have all the respect in the world for those guys.”

The Broncos were led by Javurek, who went 6-for-13 for 74 yards and one interception. Trevor Lippens picked up 34 yards on 12 carries and 26 on one catch. Emmanuel Peterson collected 11 on one carry and 17 on two catches. Joseph Stein also picked up 16 yards on one catch.

Crouch led the Lakes with 97 yards in the air on 4-of-4 passing and 94 yards on three carries. Caleb Gregoire racked up 65 on 13 carries and 45 yards on one catch with two TDs. Cole Gregoire notched 29 yards on one catch with one TD, and Brinkman finished with 54 yards on five carries and one TD. Caleb Klein picked up 52 on eight carries, and Jesse hill collected 22 on five carries and 13 yards on one catch.

Bark River travels to Ishpeming Thursday, while Lake Linden hosts Manistique Saturday. The Broncos need a win to clinch a playoff spot.

“Emotionally, we just have to play better,” Stenberg said. “That’s the biggest thing. We have to have a better week of practice with a short week. We have to adjust our attitude. We came into this game a little passive, and you just can’t do that when you’re playing good football teams.”

The Lakes could make the playoffs without a win against Manistique — depending how the dominoes fall — but they will treat the game as a playoff game.

“We’re going to look at next week as a playoff game,” coach Crouch said. “We’ve got to beat Manistique to get a chance to extend the season. The kids have worked their tails off, and we’re going to go at it hard.”

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