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The Lakeland College football team earned its first win of the season in its Northern Athletics Conference opener on Saturday, beating visiting Aurora University, 19-18.
The Muskies (1-3, 1-0 NAC) played a solid first half, taking a 13-12 lead at halftime, and were able to hold off a late charge by the Spartans.
Aurora (1-3, 0-1 NAC) scored first, driving 80 yards on six plays, highlighted by a 60-yard touchdown pass. A fumble deep in Aurora territory cost the Muskies a scoring chance, however, the defense forced a three-and-out which gave the offense new life.
Senior wide receiver Justin Groeneveld (Kingsford, Mich.) put Lakeland on the board with an eight-yard touchdown catch to tie the game. The teams traded touchdowns in the final minute of the first half, with Lakeland connecting on its extra point for the 13-12 lead.
Aurora scored on its opening possession of the second half, driving 80 yards on nine plays capped by a 24-yard touchdown pass. The Muskies were shut down until their final drive, going 93 yards on 13 plays following a turnover on downs. The Muskies failed to convert their two-point conversion, but escaped with the win.
The Muskies finished the game with a season-high 324 yards of offense, 160 rushing and 164 passing. Sophomore quarterback Dylan Van Straten (Shiocton, Wis.) had his best game of the year, completing 10-of-19 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for 22 yards and the game-winning TD.
Groeneveld led Lakeland with six catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman running back Tarrel Jackson (Detroit, Mich.) led the rushing attack with 70 yards on 17 carries.
The Lakeland defense turned in its biggest plays in key parts of the game. Aurora finished with 362 yards of offense, 60 rushing and 302 passing. Junior middle linebacker Bruce Romagnoli led the Muskies with 10 tackles, 2.5 for a loss. Sophomore linebacker Dhondup Tsering had an interception early in the first quarter that foiled a Spartans scoring drive and gave Lakeland some momentum.
The Muskies head to Rockford, Ill., next Saturday to face NAC foe Rockford College at 1 p.m.
To hear what Justin Groeneveld has to say about his performance, click here.
To hear what Kevin Doherty thought of the teams victory, click here.