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Dragons blaze trail to Ford Field



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Tyler Misiak leaps from a tangled heap in triumph, sending fans and teammates alike into a frenzy of celebration. It was the moment they knew for sure - the Dragons were going to Ford Field. Photo by Laura Colvin (click for larger version)

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Tyler Misiak leaps from a tangled heap in triumph, sending fans and teammates alike into a frenzy of celebration. It was the moment they knew for sure - the Dragons were going to Ford Field. Photo by Laura Colvin (click for larger version)

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Tyler Misiak leaps from a tangled heap in triumph, sending fans and teammates alike into a frenzy of celebration. It was the moment they knew for sure - the Dragons were going to Ford Field. Photo by Laura Colvin (click for larger version)
November 24, 2010 - An explosion of green and white erupted from the stands as the final 30 seconds of the Division 1 football state semi-finals ticked off the clock.

Lake Orion was up a scant three points over Cass Tech, 24-21, with the Technicians poised to make a final touchdown and take the game when junior ironman Andrew Shafkalis ruined everything. Well, ruined everything for Cass Tech.

Shafkalis forced a fumble allowing senior Tyler Misiak to recover the ball after a mad scramble by both teams to pounce on the ball. The entire stadium held its collective breath until Misiak came up with it.

Thirty-two seconds remained when the Dragons secured their lead and the spot in Ford Field this weekend.

Tremors of excitement still reverberate through town, days later. Misiak, Shafkalis and new quarterback Cole Schaenzer say they're getting congratulated by everyone from teachers and students to church leaders and people in the street.

"You have random people coming up to you and patting you on the back," said Misiak.

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Schaenzer added, "It's a great feeling."

But how they felt after the game Saturday was "the best thing in the world," said the three.

In the second to last play of the game, the Dragons' opponents completed a pass and Misiak said he felt the energy drain from the stands as Cass Tech set up what most thought would be the winning play of the game.

"They thought we were going to lose the game, but we never stopped. We kept playing until the last minute you never know what's going to happen," said Shafkalis.

Misiak said, "Our coach predicted the game was going to be won on the last play and I kept that in the back of my mind. It was kind of ironic."

In those final moments, Schaenzer said he felt helpless waiting on the sidelines, watching his team battle. Orders from the defensive coach were "no one crosses the line," so Misiak said he played with that in the forefront of his mind.

"Last year, I watched Stevenson beat Clarkston with seconds left and I definitely did not want that to happen," he said.

And it didn't.

Lake Orion, now 12-1 overall, is headed back to Ford Field for the state championship. The team will begin their battle with the Plymouth Wildcats (11-2) at 1 p.m.

Plymouth has a good kicker, good defense and solid offense, said Shafkalis, " But if we play our game, I think we can beat them."

"It's our last game of the year. No one's going to let up or go easy," Schaenzer said.

Both Schaenzer and Misiak were at Ford Field with the team two years ago when they lost to Rockford. Schaenzer says he feels better prepared this time around. Back in 2008, he said walking out of the tunnel was a little shocking with the immensity of the moment and the intensity of the fans.

Misiak said, "This time, I'm not going to be nervous. It's just another football game that's how you have to play it."

Back then, Shafkalis wasn't with the team, but this Saturday, he says he's ready to walk away with the state championship trophy.

"I'm really excited," he said, adding that once the game starts, he forgets about the crowd. "All it is, is you and the other team."

Schaenzer said the big crowds at Dragon stadium helped gear him up for Ford Field. The boys are looking forward to seeing a roaring Dragon fan section in the stadium, all dressed in white for the "white-out."

Can't make it to the game? Cheer from home watching online at MSHAA.tv as the game streams live.

Reporter, Lake Orion Review
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