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The Lakeland College football team's defense did not allow a touchdown and the Muskies stayed unbeaten in conference play with a 21-7 victory at Benedictine University in Lisle, Ill.
The host Eagles (1-4, 0-2 Illini-Badger Football Conference) made things interesting when Bob McLearen returned an interception 45 yards for a touchdown to cut the score to 14-7 with 13:30 to play. But Lakeland's offense delivered when it had to, sealing the win with a score with 7:43 to play to improve to 2-3 overall and 2-0 in league play.
Lakeland's defense limited Benedictine to 138 total yards. Senior Kempton Freeman and sophomores Joe Janisch and Dan Burrow all registered sacks as the Muskies pressured the Eagles throughout the game.
"I'm so happy with our defense," Lakeland head coach Kevin Doherty said. "We had great discipline and or coaches called a smart game. Our defense won that game."
A pair of Lakeland's starting defensive players factored into the game's first score on special teams when junior Stephan Johnson blocked a Benedictine punt and senior Cleveland Pierce scooped up the loose ball and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown with 4:28 left in the opening quarter.
"That was great to see," Doherty said. "We work on those types of plays."
Lakeland made it 14-0 with 9:41 left in the first half when senior Paul Resop scored on a 2-yard run. Resop, who was back in the lineup for the first time since suffering a knee injury in the season opener, was a bright spot offensively, rushing for 64 yards on 17 carries.
Facing a third down with 16 yards to go with 4:30 to play, Resop ran for 15 of those yards to put the Muskies in a position to get the first down. Lakeland eventually scored on the play when senior QB Brad Wilk connected with senior MacArthur White on a 4-yard pass to seal the win.
"I called that draw on third down to punt, and he nearly got us a first down," Doherty said.
Lakeland finished with 348 total yards, 136 on the ground. Wilk was 20 of 35 for 212 yards with one TD and two interceptions. The Muskies had 11 penalties for 105 yards, many coming from holding calls.
"I don't think we were focused on offense," Doherty said. "Brad had some good throws, but he rushed some other decisions. We had some good drives where we got good yards, but we've got to sharpen up. When you don't play particularly well and still win that's the sign of a good team. This was a good win for us."
After playing on the road for a month, the Muskies finally return home next Saturday for their Homecoming game against Eureka. Kickoff will be 1 p.m.