KINGSLEY — “Everything was just kind of magical,” Kingsley head coach Tim Wooer said.
The No. 4-ranked Stags hosted No. 1-ranked Glen Lake for the ‘Salute to Service’ non-conference game Friday at Rodes Field and Wooer was the wizard as the undefeated Stags routed the Lakers 53-14.
“You get outta life what you put into it,” Wooer said. “Since the day I walked in the door, these kids have been committed.
“My message before the game was they know they have been put on this stage because of their efforts. Not everybody gets to play in a game like this and then to perform the way they did is just really special.”
The Stags (7-0, 4-0 NMFL-Legends) could not be stopped on a rain-soaked night that marked their third straight game scoring 50 points or more and dismantled a Lakers defense that hadn’t allowed more than 14 points all season.
Glen Lake (6-1, 3-0 NMFL-Leaders) went from averaging 39 points per game to scoring only 14 on a defense that let up 40 points to Benzie Central a week ago.
“My team was not mentally prepared and that is on me for a big game like this,” Lakers’ head coach Jerry Angers said. “This loss is on Jerry Angers alone. My kids work their tails off and I didn’t have them prepared or mentally tough enough to withstand what happened.”
The Stags stopped Glen Lake on the opening drive and then took their first offensive looks into the end zone. Owen Graves started his monster night with a 5-yard dive to open the scoring with 6:41 to go in the first quarter. Ayden Mullin ran in the two-point try to make it 8-0.
Kingsley would make it 14-0 when Tyler Inthisone found sophomore Trevor Lewis on a 25-yard play-action flag route to the left pylon.
The Lakers started to find their footing and make it a game on the next possession. Glen Lake put together a five-minute, 11-play drive capped off by a spectacular one-handed catch by Finn Hogan.
Glen Lake quarterback Reece Hazelton rolled to the right and fired a high arcing pass that was tipped by Graves and bounced off Hogan’s hands twice before he was able to secure it with his right hand and come down in the back corner of the end zone.
Kingsley fired back with a 14-yard score from Inthisone on a tipped pass at the line that landed in Graves’ hands before he shook three defenders for the TD making it 22-7.
The Lakers showed their last signs of life on a 27-yard TD pass from Hazelton to Henry Lerchen that Lerchen squeezed inside the pylon on a wheel route with 1:59 to go in the first half.
The next two minutes changed everything.
The Stags only needed three plays before Graves took a delayed draw and skirted to the outside for a 44-yard score. The Lakers took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the two-point conversion that led to the game changing play.
The Stags got to kick from the 50 and booted it deep only to have the Lakers’ returners muff the ball. The Stags recovered at the Lakers’ 10-yard line and and Payson Caballero took the second play to the house from 2-yards out, turning a eight point halftime lead into a 24-point halftime lead in under two minutes.
“We wanted to get an extra one and I knew we had two timeouts,” Wooer said of his aggressiveness in the final minutes of the first half. “I knew we could throw the ball and then that draw play that popped for six was huge.
“You don’t expect to get it from them on the kickoff at the 10, that was just fortunate. But it certainly helped out a couple of nails in the coffin at that point.”
The Stags came out of the break and dominated the line of scrimmage, allowing zero second half points and not so much as a sniff of the endzone for the Lakers. The Stags offense just kept on rolling.
Kingsley rushed 47 times for 301 yards on muddy Rodes Field. Graves totaled 11 carries for 98 yards and four scores on the ground while catching three passes for 28 yards and a score.
Caballero toted the ball 12 times for 90 yards and a score and Inthisone went 10-for-10 passing with 125 yards on the slick surface.
“The O-line was perfect with blocking and they stayed low all night,” Caballero said. “It showed when we were marching down the field and scoring.”
The young offensive line made up of sophomores Riley Brock, Lukas Bogart, Trevor Lewis and juniors Joe Lewis, Brady Harrand and Brandon Weber were out-sized, but dominated at the line of scrimmage all evening.
The Wing-T proved useful for the Stags as they used their speed on the edges to beat the large Glen Lake line. It was the blocking of the backs that stood out to Wooer, though.
“A lot of people can talk about (Ayden) Mullin, Graves and Caballero but I don’t really think some people look at how great of blockers they are,” he said. “Caballero is the best blocking running back I have coached in 29 years. They are great athletes but they are great in all phases of the game.”
Mullin also showed up on defense with a first-quarter interception and Jayden Inthisone had one in the second.
The Lakers were held to 192 yards of total offense and were led by Isaac Sterzer with 52 on the ground. Hazelton rushed nine times for 50 yards and went 4-for-11 passing with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Hogan had two catches for 30 yards and nine total tackles to lead the Lakers’ defense.
The Stags and Lakers honored veterans, active duty military and first responders before the game and Rodes Field was packed with supporters for the top-five matchup.
Several Stags said the atmosphere added to their fire for Friday’s game and Wooer noticed the difference in his team.
“Our kids talked about playing for other people than themselves and playing for the veterans and for Justin Hansen and his family,” Wooer said. “I hope people don’t forget the families and the veterans on Monday when they go to work.”