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Seven turnovers sent the Lakeland College football team to a 23-7 loss at Aurora (Ill.) University in the Northern Athletics Conference opener for both schools.
Lakeland senior quarterback Jake Dworak was picked off four times, and the Muskies (1-3) lost three fumbles en route to a tough road loss. Aurora (3-1) scored all of its points on drives after Lakeland turnovers.
The Muskies took an early 7-0 lead when Dworak connected with senior wide receiver Roberto Flores on a 22-yard touchdown pass on Lakeland's opening drive.
Aurora tied the game near the end of the first quarter, and took a lasting lead on a 39-yard field goal from Ryan Subick with a second left in the first half.
The Muskies had their chances. Lakeland's defense forced three Aurora turnovers as senior defensive backs Keith Woodson and Isiah Calhoun both had interceptions in the third quarter, and senior Bryan Groshek recovered a fumble forced by senior Joey O'Brien. The Spartans also missed two field goals and had a third blocked.
But Lakeland had four of its turnovers in the second half, including an interception returned 85 yards for a touchdown by Aurora defensive lineman Derek Dinino with 2 seconds to play.
"Defensively we played great, and did what we needed to do to win," Lakeland head coach Kevin Doherty said. "It's hard to overcome seven turnovers. Our defense would shut them down and get us the ball back, but offensively we couldn't sustain that momentum."
Lakeland outgained Aurora in total yards, 250-206, but it was Lakeland's lowest output of the season, 73 yards under its average.
Dworak finished 19-for-44 with 177 yards and he was sacked four times. Flores caught seven passes for 88 yards, and junior tight end Eric Zuelsdorf added seven catches for 52 yards. Junior running back Jason Williams had 71 yards on 24 carries.
Defensively, sophomore linebacker Bruce Romagnoli had 10 tackles for Lakeland, and senior linebacker Will Baldwin added eight. The Muskies had 12 tackles for loss and eight pass breakups, five combined from Woodson and Calhoun.
Lakeland will host Rockford for its homecoming game on Saturday, Oct. 9, at 1 p.m. at Taylor Field.