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The Lakeland College football team shrugged off an early deficit Saturday and won its first non-conference game since 2005, a 27-12 victory at Hope College in Holland, Mich.
The Muskies (1-2) led by one at halftime and their defense shut out Hope (0-4) in the second half to preserve the win, which snapped a 16-game non-conference losing streak. Lakeland's last non-league win was on Sept. 3, 2005, a 27-15 home victory over Northwestern (Minn.)
Saturday's loss extended Hope's non-conference losing streak, which dates back to 2004, to 24 games.
"The big question before the game was which team was going to break its non-conference win streak today," said Lakeland head coach Kevin Doherty. "This was our first road game and an overnight trip at that. This is a huge monkey off our backs. It removes the pressure of trying to determine what to tell our team after an emotional loss and a tough road trip."
The host Flying Dutchmen grabbed an early 6-0 lead when Zach Jones returned an interception of Lakeland quarterback Jake Dworak 55 yards for a score. But the Muskies took what would prove to be a lasting lead midway through the first quarter on a 4-yard touchdown run by junior running back Jeremy Williams.
The teams traded touchdowns in the second quarter and Lakeland had a 13-12 lead at the break. The Muskies' defense shut Hope out in the second half, and junior defensive back Tony Faller sealed the win with a 65-yard interception return for a TD with 11:16 to play.
"As soon as Tony picked it, I saw him running like crazy and there was no one catching that kid," Doherty said. "The game wasn't over at that point, but we got some big first downs and we played the field position game well. Our defense was just outstanding today."
Lakeland dominated time of possession, 39:07 to Hope's 20:53, and the Muskies had the ball for 12:48 of the third quarter. Lakeland's defense limited Hope to 2-14 on third downs, senior defensive back Isiah Calhoun had an interception and senior DB Keith Woodson added a fumble recovery and three pass breakups.
Lakeland held Hope to season lows in passing/receiving yards (140) and total yards (245), while the Muskies' offense finished with 362 total yards.
Lakeland senior wide receiver Roberto Flores had another big day with 10 catches for 167 yards. Dworak finished 21-for-40 for 270 yards, a rushing TD, a passing TD and the interception. Junior tight end Eric Zuelsdorf had Lakeland's third offensive TD, a 7-yard catch in the third quarter to extend Lakeland's lead to 20-12.
"I thought we finally played four solid quarters," Doherty said. "Our defensive backs did an outstanding job staying with their receivers, and we contained their running game and kept in out of the end zone.
"Roberto had another good day, but Jake did a nice job finding several targets today. Travis Skarda, Zuelsdorf and Steve Oldenburger all had drive-saving catches."
Lakeland now turns its focus to the start of Northern Athletics Conference play, which begins Oct. 2 as the Muskies travel to Aurora, Ill., for a 1 p.m. kickoff.