September 11, 2013 - By Joe St. Henry
Special to The Review
Lake Orion's defense made several big plays, while its offense amassed 425 total yards, to power the Dragons to a 40-7 victory over Troy Athens last Friday in front of the season's first home crowd.
While the game was a rout on paper, Head Coach Chris Bell said the team still had some things to "clean up" before facing some of the better teams on Lake Orion's schedule.
"We weren't as efficient on offense as we need to be," he said.
Indeed, the Red Hawks only points came off of a fumble return for a touchdown on Lake Orion's first offensive play. Unfazed, however, the Dragons – keyed by senior Kyle Bell's ensuing 45-yard kickoff return – took just three plays to tie the game, 7-7, with senior wide receiver Zach Arnold dashing 17 yards for the score.
"The last thing you want to do is give an underdog life," Lake Orion Head Coach Chris Bell said. "We did a nice job responding to the fumble return and getting things rolling."
After Lake Orion forced the Red Hawks to punt on their next possession, the Dragons mounted a 70-yard scoring drive, capped by junior running back Matt Krause's nine-yard touchdown run, to take the lead 14-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Lake Orion's defense then forced another punt and then the offense built another long scoring drive, covering nine plays and 64 yards. Senior quarterback Connor Grant swung a pass to senior wide receiver Z ach Greene who scampered for nine yards into the end zone, to build a 21-7 lead for the home team. Greene caught three passes on the drive.
"It was a nice coming out party for Zach – he really played well," Bell said.
On the Red Hawk's next possession, they moved inside the Lake Orion 40-yard line but turned the ball over when the Dragons' senior linebacker Brennan Rourke hit the quarterback, forced a fumble and recovered the ball. The head coach said Rourke was "all over the field" with multiple tackles and sacks to lead the defense.
With only three minutes left before half, Lake Orion's quick-strike offense moved downfield in six plays, highlighted by senior wide receiver Corey Ester's juggling 42-yard reception. Grant then threw his second touchdown pass of the game, hitting senior wide receiver Josh Bays for 18 yards and the score.
"I think Connor had an outstanding game," Bell said. "He really played well under pressure, converting a few big third and fourth down plays."
Sacks stalled drives and both teams traded punts to start the second half before Lake Orion's defense made two more big plays. Lake Orion stopped Troy Athens on third and fourth down with only one yard to go at its own 40 yard line. The Dragons took possession with only 21 seconds to go in the quarter, but needed just one play to add to the rout, with Ester taking the ball 40 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. The extra point was missed, but Lake Orion led 33-7 after three quarters.
The Dragons' defense came up with another big fourth down stop on the Red Hawks first drive in the final quarter, taking over on their own 22 yard line. Two plays later, Arnold streaked 64 yards down the sideline for his second touchdown of the game and a 40-7 Dragon lead.
The Red Hawks final drive took them inside the Lake Orion five yard line, but the Dragons' defense – featuring a number of backup players – came up with a couple of timely sacks and a forced fumble to thwart the scoring threat and effectively end the game. Lake Orion limited Troy Athens to 65 yards on the ground; 183 total yards.
"Our defense improved by leaps and bounds from the first game, especially our line," Bell said. "We took away their run game and made them one dimensional."
Grant finished 8-12 for 113 yards and two touchdown passes. Lake Orion, meanwhile, ran for 312 yards on 35 carries, led by Arnold's game-high 78 yards and two scores. Senior running back Dominick Giovinazzo ran for 66 yards; Ester for 58 yards. The receivers were led by Ester's 47 receiving yards.
This week the Dragons play at home versus the West Bloomfield Lakers, who lost to Clarkston last week, 41-18.
"They were young last year and I expect them to be better," Bell said, noting the Lakers had the lead late in the first half in their game against the Wolves before Clarkston took command. "We have to be ready for them."