Muskie Football Wins Season Opener; Zebrowski Wins
Sept. 6, 2002
The Lakeland College Muskies won their season opener 30-13 over Tri-State University (IN) Saturday afternoon at Taylor field on the Lakeland College Campus. The win was the first for new Muskie Football Coach Jim Zebrowski, who was making his coaching debut. Lakeland is now 1-0 on the young season while Tri-State fell to 0-1.
"What means the most is that what you've been preaching to the kids for so long works, and just watching the kids buy into it," said the young skipper. "The kids really have pride in Lakeland College and it shows. I just want them to reach their full potential. If they give their maximum effort the scoreboard will take care of itself."
The Muskies jumped out to a 7-0 lead on their first possession and used a little trickery in the process. On their first series the Muskies were looking at third and seven when the rookie coach called for a fake punt at their own 46 yard line. Sophomore Matt Behringer took the direct snap from center and went around left end for a 31 yard gain to Tri-State's 23.
After a couple of completions to fullback Travis Gervais, quarterback Brent Luebke pounded it in from two yards out to make 7-0 following Gerald Starner's extra point. The drive took 10 plays and covered 57 yards in 5 minutes and 57 seconds.
Lakeland expanded their lead to 13-0 early in the second quarter with a long 15 play, 68 yard drive that took nearly seven minutes off the clock. This time Nick Hunter led the way, carrying the ball five times for 49 yards before taking it in from seven yards out with 13:52 to go in the half. Starner's extra point attempt failed but the Muskies had clearly established the run during this drive.
The Thunder came storming back to make it 13-7 on their very next possession. Their seven-play, 69 yard drive was capped off by a four yard run by Chris Bixler.
The score remained 13-7 at the half as both teams had several stalled drives.
Tri-State tied the game with their first drive of the second half after a 75 yard pass completion to the Muskies five yard line. Bixler finished it off from four yards out but a key missed extra point attempt seemed to swing the momentum in Lakeland's favor.
On the very next possession the Muskies marched 76 yards on just six plays to take a 20-13 lead - a lead they would not relinquish. Luebke capped the drive with a 38 yard touchdown pass to Courtney Gatlin in the left corner of the end zone on a fly pattern.
"It was a great job by Gatlin to be ready," said Zebrowski. "He was filling in for Jeff Taff who was cramping up."
Lakeland took command of the game early in the fourth when Matt Cook nailed a 27 yard field goal to make it 23-13. This concluded another clock-eating drive that covered 42 yards in 13 plays.
The Muskies completed the scoring when Hunter slammed it in from one yard out with 43 seconds left in the game. This finished off a drive that iced the game when Lakeland ate up over five minutes on 13 plays again.
The Muskies racked up 291 yards on the ground and 119 in the air for 410 yards overall. Tri-State struggled against a stingy Lakeland defense, gaining just 178 yards including just 10 rushing yards on 29 attempts.
Lakeland had 22 first downs compared to Tri-State's 13, and controlled the ball for 36 of the 60 minutes in the game. Lakeland also converted a whopping 10 of 16 third down opportunities while the Thunder managed just 1 of 12.
The defense obviously responded to new Defensive Coordinator Chris Krich, Lakeland's fourth coordinator in four years.
"Our defense was outstanding today, especially in the run game," said Zebrowski. We gave up just 168 yards and 75 came on one play. I think our camp really helped as our defense prepared against our run extensively."
Offensively, the Muskies were led by Hunter who picked up 129 yards on 21 carries (6.1 ypc). Gervais added 42 yards on seven carries while Marcus Denham chipped in with 45 yards on 11 carries.
Luebke complete 10 of 20 passes for 119 yards and one touchdown, while Gervais led the receivers with three catches for 26 yards.
I loved the physicallness of our offense," added Zebrowski. "We ran for nearly 300 yards behind the standout play of our O-line. Nick and Travis really stood out. The only drawback to our offense was missing some opportunities in our passing game."
And the only drawback statistically was the 15 penalties Lakeland accrued for a staggering 143 yards, compared to Tri-State's four for 24.
But in the end Zebrowski was pleased with the team's performance and effort.
"Their effort was tremendous. And they overcame adversity by not letting 15 penalties or when Tri-State came back to tie it get them down. They didn't get rattled or flustered. They showed they had character, came back and played hard. All the mistakes we made are correctible."
Next week the Muskies travel to Carthage to take on the Redman at 7pm. It will be Carthage's first game of the year.