Lakeland's season ends in 24-6 loss at Aurora
Athletics - posted on 11/15/2008
AURORA, Ill. - The Lakeland football team was unable to muster any sort of offense and struggled defensively at key points, en route to a 24-6 defeat to Aurora University at Vago Field.
"We really didn't play well today in any phase," Lakeland head coach Kevin Doherty said. "We played well in spurts, but it was too late. I give AU a lot of credit, they really played well on their home field for Senior Day."
The Muskies (5-5, 5-2 Northern Athletics Conference) surrendered an opportunity to win both a share of the conference championship and the league's automatic berth in the NCAA Division III playoffs. Instead, the Spartans (9-1, 7-0) take the NAC title outright and will receive an automatic bid to the national tournament.
The loss will end the season for Lakeland.
About midway through the first quarter, the Muskies squandered a major scoring opportunity. With the Spartans leading 3-0, senior linebacker Brent Miller (Menasha) picked off a pass by Aurora quarterback Nate Peterson and brought it back to the Spartan 8-yard line. After the Lakeland offense couldn't punch it in, senior kicker Billy Hughes missed a 25-yard field goal, giving the ball back to Aurora with no points on the board.
"When we came up empty after that interception by Brent, that really hurt us from a momentum standpoint," Doherty said. "We have to come up with points there. We have a young offensive team and that really affects our mental psyche."
Sophomore quarterback Jake Dworak (Denmark) was frustrated all game long by a stifling Aurora defense, throwing for just 142 yards while tossing four interceptions.
Defensively, the Muskies battled throughout the game but were ultimately worn down by a solid Spartan rushing attack. Aurora piled up 208 total yards on the ground, highlighted by a decimating third-and-long run early in the second quarter which led to a Spartan touchdown.
The lone offensive highlight for Lakeland came too late, when Dworak found senior wide receiver Matt Pawlyk (Marinette) for a 6-yard touchdown with 1:03 remaining in the contest. Pawlyk, who entered the game leading the league in touchdown receptions, now has 13 for the season.
Senior linebacker John Wagner (Kewaunee) finished with 13 tackles, while Miller finished with 12 tackles, including 2.0 for a loss.
The Muskies conclude the 2008 season as the NAC runner-up after sharing the conference title in 2007.
"I thanked our seniors for their leadership this season," Doherty said. "They dealt with a lot of adversity this season, especially with some of the injuries we've had. I told them to keep it up in the classroom, because that's what they're at Lakeland for."
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