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The Concordia, Wis., football team only led for 3 minutes and 7 seconds of Saturday's showdown with Lakeland College. But the host Falcons had great timing.
Concordia scored 28 second-half points, including three touchdowns in the final quarter, and dominated the second half in handing Lakeland a heartbreaking 35-28 loss.
With the win, the Falcons (6-2) take a major step toward winning the Illini-Badger Football Conference title as they sit alone at 5-0 atop the IBFC with two weeks to play. The Muskies (4-4) saw their four-game win streak snap and drop to 4-1 in league play.
After Lakeland dictated things in the first half and had the game in control with a 20-7 lead at the break, Concordia took control in the third quarter on both sides of the ball. The Falcons had 46 plays in the second half to just 23 for the Muskies, and Concordia rolled up 291 of its 444 yards in the second half, as Lakeland managed just 45 second-half yards.
Lakeland stunned a big Concordia Homecoming crowd with three first-half scores as senior quarterback Brad Wilk connected with senior wide receiver MacArthur White twice and once with junior Matt Pawlyk.
But when Concordia cut its gap to 20-14 with a touchdown at the 9:51 mark of the third quarter, Lakeland head coach Kevin Doherty said it was a telling drive.
"Their first drive of the third quarter just killed us emotionally," Doherty said. "We just lost all our momentum. It made us flat on both sides of the ball."
Concordia finished with 271 rushing yards, just under its average of 282, but the Falcons also had a big day passing. Entering the game, Concordia averaged just 18 passing attempts per game and 96.9 passing yards per game, but Saturday attempted 28 passes and finished with 173 passing yards. QB Thomas Pacchioli was 17 of 27 for 173 yards and a TD.
"I was totally shocked at how much success they were having passing it," Doherty said.
Lakeland finished with 284 total yards, 239 coming in the first half. White had a big day, catching nine passes for 127 yards to go with the two TDs.
White also had an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown which came immediately after Concordia took its first lead, 21-20, with 8:53 to play. Wilk ran in the two-point attempt, giving Lakeland a 28-21 lead with 8:40 left.
But Concordia scored twice in the final 4:30, picking off a Wilk pass to set up its final score with 2:54 to play, and the Falcons' defense held as Lakeland's final drive ended on downs at the Concordia 29.
Wilk was 17 of 40 for 256 yards and three TDs, and Pawlyk had three catches for 53 yards. Lakeland's ground game managed just 28 yards on 24 attempts.
"Their front seven is so good against the run," Doherty said. "They made some adjustments in the second half and got on our receivers and got us out of our receiver sets. They took away our short passes and forced us to go a little deeper than we would like too."
Junior linebacker John Wagner had 15 tackles to lead the Muskies' defense, while Brent Miller added nine.
Lakeland returns home on Saturday, Oct. 27, for a 1 p.m. game with Concordia-Chicago. The Muskies are alone in second play in the IBFC, and Doherty said that's the incentive for his players in their final two games.
"We've got to play for second place outright and a winning record overall," Doherty said. "Our seniors deserve to go out with a better record than last season."