L'ANSE - L'Anse scored on eight of its first 10 drives en route to a 52-34 win over Lake Linden-Hubbell in an MHSAA Division 8 Pre-District playoff game on Friday in L'Anse.
The Purple Hornets totaled 279 yards on the ground (7.97 yards per carry), and occassionaly hit LL-H with some timely play-action passes (120 passing yards) that kept an effective Lakes option-offense in constant scramble mode.
"There are so many guys I think are first-teamers on this team," L'Anse senior quarterback Ryan LaBerge said. "The offensive line does a great job, and then we have so many options for the ball. Obviously Jimmy Veker (174 yards, 23 carries) is an awesome running back, and that opens options for the rest of us when the defense keys on him.
"It feels great," LaBerge continued. "I never thought I would be in this spot. It's just unreal."
A trio of explosive plays in a three minute span at the end of the first half blew what was a tight contest into a three-score lead for L'Anse.
After the Lakes cut the Hornets lead to 7-6 with a 19-play drive, Veker ripped off a pair of 20-plus yard runs to put L'Anse back on top 14-6. The Lakes compounded the problem by roughing LaBerge on the point after attempt.
"You can't take penalties in that situation, and we know that," LL-H coach Andy Crouch said.
LaBerge got his revenge quickly, dinking a surprise onside kick that L'Anse recovered at the Lake's 29-yard line. Leaf said the improved field position from the penalty convinced him to try the onside attempt.
"We thought it might be coming, but we put ourselves in that position by taking a penalty, and they executed it well. Hats off to L'Anse," Crouch said.
L'Anse started the drive with a LaBerge playaction rollout and the senior found wide receiver Jonny Magaraggia for 23-yards to set up a four-yard touchdown run from Veker.
The Hornets were able to strike one more time before halftime as well, with a Ryan Beauprey interception of Mitchel Kumpula setting up a 32-yard field goal attempt for LaBerge with one second remaining in the half. The All-U.P. kicker was true, turning a close game into a three-score lead with just three minutes off the clock.
"That swing at the end of the first half really made the game for us," L'Anse coach Mark Leaf said. "We needed all those points with the way Lake Linden moved the ball in the second half. The guys did a great job stepping up and making plays."