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The Lakeland College football team opened its season today with a 27-15 win over Northwestern College (Minn.) at Taylor Field.
"It was the first game and we made some mistakes," said head coach Jim Zebrowski. "We did really well between the 20s, and the kids played hard. They (Northwestern) are the type of team that, if we keep them in the game, they will gain confidence. The great part was that we got behind and we were able to battle back and we got the job done at the end of the game."
After taking an early 7-0 lead, the Muskies found themselves having to rally. Trailing 9-7 with 10 minutes remaining in the contest, Maiuri ran for a four-yard touchdown on a triple-option to the right side, putting the Muskies up 13-9, a lead they would not relinquish.
"It was just a simple option play, and there was nobody out there so I just ran it in," said Maiuri. "The offensive line pretty much got us into that position. We ran the ball all the way down the field on that drive to get down there, so it is just as much the offensive line's touchdown as it is mine. They deserve the credit."
After forcing the Eagles to turn the ball over on downs on their next possession, sophomore fullback Paul Resop somehow kept his knee off the ground as two defenders attempted to tackle him and scampered the rest of the way for a 75-yard touchdown run giving the Muskies a 20-9 lead.
"Paul hurt his knee in camp and we weren't sure if he'd be back," said Zebrowski. "He's a tough kid. It was a huge run that put us up by 10 so if they (Northwestern College) did score again we'd still be up. It was a great job of playing to the whistle. I think he got tackled, but he never hit the ground…He just kept going. That was a great play by him."
On the day the Muskies were able to put up 528 yards of offense in 89 plays, while the defense allowed 316 yards on 65 plays. Senior Ryan Van De Loo led the defense with 10.5 tackles and two sacks. Junior Shane Schrimpf recorded 1.5 tackles, playing in his first game since he was injured in a car accident over a year ago. Offensively Maiuri led the team with 103 rushing yards on 16 attempts, scoring two touchdowns.
"We struggled a little bit early," said Maiuri. "We fought adversity and we came through, the defense stepped up and made turnovers when we needed them to. With the mistakes we made on offense, the defense was picking us up, and when the defense needed help, we helped them. In the long run we came out with the win and that is all that matters."
Lakeland got on the board first, scoring on the opening drive. Just over five minutes into the contest, Maiuri scored on a quarterback sneak from the one-yard line.
Northwestern answered with 2:07 left in the first quarter with a 27-yard field goal by senior Dennis Holsman after their drive stalled on the 10-yard line. Late in the first half, senior defensive lineman David Benton forced a fumble, but was injured on the play and did not return to the game.
With 4:27 remaining in the third quarter, the Eagles pulled ahead 9-7 when sophomore quarterback Aaron Hunter found freshman Kyle Thomforde on a slant pattern at the goal line. Thomforde led the Eagles' wide receivers with four catches for 96 yards.
With the Muskies up 20-9, Thomforde grabbed a pass deflected by Muskies' defensive back Tyrece Warner in the end zone on fourth down to cut the Lakeland lead to 20-15. The Muskies recovered an on-side kick attempt by Northwestern, and five plays later, senior receiver Rodney Ellison caught a 38-yard touchdown pass from Maiuri.
The Muskies travel to Kenosha next Saturday to play the #13 ranked Carthage before returning home to play #21 UW-Whitewater on Sept. 17.