Lightning one strike better than Messwood
As the season of fall arrives, it brings with it many things. Leaves begin to turn a beautiful array of autumn colors, temperatures drop to create crisp cool evenings and, since 2009, Lake Country Lutheran ascends to the top of the Midwest Classic standings.
Friday night at Shorewood, the Lightning did just that, defeating the Messmer/Shorewood co-op squad, 43-40, taking sole possession of first place in the conference. Lake Country Lutheran moves to 4-0 in the conference (5-0 overall) with Messmer/Shorewood dropping to 3-1 in conference play (4-1 overall).
Both teams came into Friday averaging more than 40 points per game, and Lake Country Lutheran proved it was going to be a high scoring affair on the first drive of the game. The Lightning took just three plays and 36 seconds to move 69 yards and score the first points of the game. A 46-yard run by sophomore Adam Tovar set up a 26-yard touchdown connection from senior Jacob Simons to junior Murphy Shannon giving Lake Country Lutheran a 7-0 lead.
From that moment forward, it was a race to 40, with each team taking risks on fourth down, attempting on-side kicks and throwing the ball down field. The epically long first half featured seven lead changes and 55 total points with the lead exchanging hands three times in the last two minutes of the second quarter.
Sophomore Nate Coss scampered in from 12 yards out to give LCL the lead with 1:37 left in the first half. That drive featured two fourth down conversions for the Lightning and seemingly gave them the halftime lead. Messmer/Shorewood quickly answered a minute later with a drive capped off by junior Mykyo Evans taking it in from eight yards out.
The first half flurry of lead changes would finally end 20 seconds later when Simons connected with junior Charlie Jacques for a 45-yard touchdown pass to give the Lightning a 29-26 lead at the break.
“The plays sandwiched right around the half were clearly the difference in the game,” Messmer/Shorewood head coach Drake Zortman said. “I thought we were in pretty good shape when we scored with :34 seconds left in the half but they came right down the field and scored with 20 second left.”
The first Lake Country Lutheran drive of the second half was a length-of-the-field mixture of passing and run plays. Eventually, it would provide the separation the Lightning were looking for all night. Tovar finished the drive with a 25-yard touchdown run to give Lake Country Lutheran a 36-26 lead late in the third quarter. Messmer/Shorewood would continue to fight though.
“We are both high power offenses, so I can see how this high scoring game happened,” Simons said. “All week we were saying that this is our conference championship game, and I’m very proud of the way our whole team played in such a big game.”
Earlier in the game, with 2:20 left in the first quarter, Tovar made another big play of more than 30 yards when he caught a Simons pass wide open down the left side of the field. Tovar took the pass and ran the rest of the way for a 34-yard TD play to give Lake Country the lead 15-9 late in the first quarter.
“It was a great feeling, and I like that play that coach drew up for us,” Tovar said. "We put it in a couple weeks ago and haven’t really run it a whole lot, but in that situation, we needed it.”
Lake Country Lutheran struggled to get the running game going earlier, which created the need to open up the playbook, but eventually the offensive line settled in and started controlling the game. Tovar recognized the importance of his dominating offensive line and says he would stack them up against anyone.
“I probably have the best offensive line in the conference and maybe in the state,” Tovar said. “I never doubt them. They are great guys and they’re a great offensive line.”
Zortman also recognized the great play of Lake Country Lutheran while giving credit to his team for playing strong and never backing down. Zortman also recognized the importance of this game in the conference title race.
“I think everybody knew that these are two quality football teams and that the winner of this game had the best chance to win the conference title,” Zortman said. “Hats off to Greg and his crew, he’s got some great players, they’re disciplined, they’re polite, they work really hard, they do it the right way over there.
“They have so many weapons that I think if they continue on the path they are on and continue to improve they have a chance to win five playoff games.”
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