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The Lakeland College football team lost its second consecutive conference game Saturday, suffering a 28-19 setback against Northern Athletics Conference leader Benedictine University in Lisle, Ill.
The Muskies (3-5, 3-2 NAC) saw opportunistic play on special teams and put together one of their most impressive offensive performances of the year, but their inability to score in the red zone proved costly for the second straight week.
The Muskies failed to capitalize on two first-half scoring chances. The first came after Kyle Stowers recovered the fumbled punt giving Lakeland the ball on the Eagles 18 yard line. Lakeland got the ball inside the five yard line, but could punch it in and missed a 21-yard field goal. On the ensuing drive, Lakeland's special teams recovered an errant snap on the nine yard line, but the Muskies turned the ball over on downs.
The Eagles (6-2, 5-0) scored first on a 25-yard touchdown run by John Borsellino early in the second quarter, finishing off a nine-play, 96-yard drive. They tacked on another score on a three-yard reception by Brandin Austin with 23 seconds left in the first half and led 14-0 at the half.
In the second half, the Muskies blocked punt early in the third quarter and sophomore quarterback Dylan Van Straten threw a 12-yard TD pass to senior wide receiver Justin Groeneveld.
Trailing 21-6, the Muskies answered with a three-play, 74-yard drive highlighted by Dennis Ware's 73-yard run to the one-yard line. Van Straten punched it in for the touchdown.
Lakeland's defense stiffened and when the fourth quarter arrived, the Muskies had a comeback on their minds. A 15-yard TD pass from Van Straten to Groeneveld cut the gap to 21-19. But the Eagles returned the ensuing kickoff 56 yards to the six-yard line and Borsellino scored on the next play to give the hosts the game's last score.
Lakeland totaled 365 yards of offense, 119 passing and 246 rushing. Van Straten continued his solid conference play, completing 14 of 25 passes for 119 yards and two TDs. He also led the team in rushing, accounting for 156 yards on 27 carries and scoring once.
Ware finished with three carries for 77 yards. Groeneveld was the team's leading receiver catching four passes for 42 yards and scoring twice.
Benedictine had 306 yards of offense, 207 passing. Lakeland Junior Evan Dieringer and senior Bruce Romagnoli each had a team-high 11 tackles, while Bruce had two for loss and one sack. Senior Tony Faller added nine tackles, one for a loss, two pass break-ups and a blocked kick.
"The difference in the game was our inability to take advantage of their mistakes," said Lakeland head coach Kevin Doherty. "We had some chances to go ahead early, but we continued to struggle in the red zone. I'm proud of the way we fought back and the way we played in the second half. We just came up a little short this week."
The Muskies play the season's final home game on Saturday, Nov. 5, when they host Maranatha Baptist Bible College on Senior Day. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.