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WATERTOWN - Fullbacks Joey Lehto (Sr.-Bartlett, Ill.) and Deric Lightle (Jr.-Elkhart Lake, Wis.) combined to rush for three touchdowns and the Lakeland College football team rebounded from a slow start to defeat Maranatha Baptist Bible College 32-7 on a rainy Saturday afternoon at Maranatha Field in a Northern Athletics Conference game.
Lehto rushed for two scores and Lightle scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 33-yard run in the second quarter as the Muskies won their second straight game, improving to 2-4 overall and 2-1 in the NAC. Lakeland kept Maranatha Baptist winless at 0-6 overall and 0-3 in conference, defeating the Crusaders in the final meeting between the two teams as NAC members. Maranatha is leaving the conference after this season to compete as an NCAA Division III independent.
The Muskies slowly gained control of the game after the Crusaders dominated for the first 20 minutes. Lakeland held Maranatha Baptist to just 51 yards of offense in the second half and intercepted Crusader quarterback Brandon McCormick four times, and the Muskies finally pulled away with a score late in the third quarter and two touchdowns in the final quarter.
Maranatha scored first, capping a 14-play, 76-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass from McCormick to Ethan Lane. The Crusaders might have had an even bigger lead at that point, but the Muskie defense stopped their initial drive of the game at the one-yard line when Joseph Manion was tackled there by Evan Dieringer (Sr.-Germantown, Wis.) on a fourth and goal pass.
Lakeland scored its first touchdown when quarterback Dylan Van Straten (Jr.-Shiocton, Wis.) found Wyatt Reinke (So.-Bonduel, Wis.) for a 12-yard touchdown pass to make it 7-6, but the extra point kick hit the left upright and bounced away. The Muskies then got a stop and answered with their second touchdown when Lightle broke free on a simple dive play and raced 33 yards for the his first collegiate touchdown to make it 12-7.
The Muskies had chances to pad the lead late in the second and early in the third quarters, but several drives stalled out in Maranatha territory, including an interception by Matt Morrison to stall Lakeland's first drive of the second half. The two defenses traded stops until the Muskies took advantage of an interception by Dieringer deep in Crusader territory, with Van Straten sneaking it in from one-yard out with 1:57 left in the third quarter.
Lakeland stopped Maranatha Baptist's next drive when Logan Christensen (Fr.-Gillett, Wis.) made his second interception of the game and the Muskies drove 60 yard in eight plays, capped when Lehto scored from one yard out for his first career touchdown. Lakeland added one more score in the fourth as Van Straten hit Norman Grinstead (Fr.-Taylor, Mich.) for 32 yards and Lehto barreled in from four yards out for a final touchdown.
Van Straten rushed for 94 yards on 13 carries and Kendrick Burks (So.-Pontiac, Mich.) added 16 rushes for 85 yards as the Muskies gained a season-best 434 yards of offense, including 271 yards on the ground. Lightle added 44 yards rushing, while Van Straten completed 10 of 19 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown.
Tyler Oslund (Jr.-Ishpeming, Mich.) led the Lakeland defense with nine tackles. Christensen added seven tackles and two passes broken up, Bruce Romagnoli (Sr.-Iron Mountain, Mich.) made seven tackles and had 2 1/2 tackles for loss, and Erik Lucht (Jr.-Greenleaf, Wis.) added six tackles, including three for loss. Deron Thomas-Key (Sr.-Sheboygan, Wis.) also made three tackles, all for loss, including two sacks.
McCormick completed 20 of 42 passes for 191 yards for Maranatha Baptist, which gained 226 yards in the game. Ethan Kennon led the Crusaders defensively with 11 tackles, three for loss.
Lakeland returns home next Saturday to face Concordia University Wisconsin at 1 p.m. at Taylor Field, with the two teams playing for the Cheese Bowl trophy annually awarded to the winner of the two schools' annual game.