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Everything came together for the Muskies on both sides of the ball as they rolled over Illini-Badger Football Conference foe Greenville 36-21 in the conference opener on Saturday in Greenville, Ill.
After failing to pick up a win through a tough non-conference schedule, the Muskies (1-3, 1-0 IBFC) rebounded on Saturday when it mattered most to begin conference with a win over the Panthers (1-2, 0-1 IBFC).
The Muskies are predicted to finish third in the IBFC final standings according to a preseason coaches' poll while the Panthers are expect to finish second.
"It was relieving to get our first win," said Lakeland head coach Kevin Doherty of his first victory as a head coach. "We played some tough non-conference opponents early on so it's great to open conference play 1-0 against a quality opponent."
The Muskies offense combined for 368 total yards, including 254 yards passing and 114 rushing yards.
"Our passing game really came together today," said Doherty. "I think part of the reason for it was because our rushing effort was so effective.
Senior quarterback Brad Wilk threw for all 254 yards completing 19-of-32 passes for four touchdowns and just one interception. Wilk was also solid on the ground as he picked up a rushing TD of his own in the contest.
Freshmen Ben Lombardi was also impressive. After being plagued by an injury since preseason camp, the freshman had a breakout day to get the Muskies' running game going, carrying the ball 21 times for 105 yards.
The Muskies' receiving core also had a strong game. Senior wide receiver MacArthur White had four catches for 96 yards and one touchdown, while junior wide receiver Matt Pawlyk had four catches for 37 yards and a TD. Sophomore wide receiver Jake Heinemeyer also had a great game with four catches for 91 yards. Freshman tight end Traves Robinson-Worthington and freshman running back Todd Guyette also had receptions for touchdowns in the contest.
Also a big difference maker for the outcome of the contest was the Muskies completing 10-of-18 third down conversions this week, which was something that Muskies had struggled with in the last two contests.
The Muskies' defense was astounding, containing Panther's quarterback Dominic Kegel to just 117 offensive yards. Junior linebacker Brent Miller intercepted one of Kegel's passes late in the first quarter, which the Muskies' offense was able to turn into a touchdown. Sophomore linebacker Jamie Schramm paced the Muskies with 10 total tackles, while junior linebacker John Wagner had nine tackles.
"Our defense also did a great job today," said Doherty. "They really were able to contain their offensive and able to hold their quarterback to less than 100 yards rushing. Brent Miller also had a nice pick in the contest."
Lakeland's special teams played consistently well again in the contest. Junior punter Billy Hughes, who is the IBFC Special Teams Player of the Week had another stellar game, which was highlighted by a 47-yard punt.
The Muskies will compete in their fourth straight road game next Saturday, as they face IBFC foe Benedictine. Game time is set for 1 p.m. in Lisle, Ill. Lakeland returns home on Oct. 6 to face Eureka for Homecoming.