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W.L. Western shocks Lowell on late TD pass, 42-40

By: Tom Markowski, August 27, 2015, 10:41 pm



Lowell – Kyle Thomas played second fiddle most of the night to Lowell’s Ryan Stevens but the fourth quarter belonged to Thomas.

Thomas, a senior quarterback, threw three touchdown passes in the final 14 minutes and Western upset No. 3-ranked Lowell, 42-40, in the season opener on Thursday at Lowell.

It was Lowell’s first loss in a season opener since 1993.

Thomas’ 14-yard touchdown pass to Jake Prokes with 3:03 left was the game-winner and ended a long (three hours) and wild game.

Western trailed nearly the entire game until Thomas’ 29-yard run set up Prokes’ 1-yard touchdown run that gave Western a 36-33 lead with 4:22 left.

Stevens still had one more trick up his sleeve as the senior threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to Gage Steed with 3:56 remaining and Lowell had the lead once again, 40-36.

Thomas immediately went to the pass as he completed consecutive passes, the second to Cody White for 43 yards to set up Prokes’ touchdown catch.

Twice Lowell led by two scores in the second half and each time Western came back.

“I wasn’t worried about the offense,” Western coach Mike Zdebski said. “I told the defense, evaluate what happened, correct what happened and play better.

“Offensively, Thomas took the game over. The one touchdown, the wheel rout to Prokes, he avoided the rush and dumped it. He found his presence. He got caught on a 25-yard loss and then found his groove.

“When your quarterback finds his confidence it makes all the difference.”

 Thomas was amazing. He was 22-of-38 for 345 yards. Though he was sacked four times for a loss of 39 yards he still managed to net 46 yards on 17 carries.

Thomas showed leadership when Lowell had all the momentum and a two-score lead.

“There was a lack of confidence on the sidelines,” he said. “I wanted to get them going with big plays. They brought pressure. We ended up going with the spread. We wanted to slow down the blitz. We went with two slots. 

“On that pass to Cody, it was a busted play. He had a post rout and then he turned around (toward the left sideline). I just hit him. He’s a big target. I wish they hadn’t double-teamed him so much.

“I never played in a game like this. I never played such a good team as Lowell. They stick with their assignments. I thought our speed would get them. I really did.”

Forget Thomas’ spectacular game. There are some concerns with Lowell’s run game. Its longest run from scrimmage was 14 yards. And its most consistent ball carrier was Stevens (20 carries, 77 yards). Fullback Max Dean was held to 31 yards on 14 carries.

But there is hope in the way in which Stevens threw the ball. A point guard on the basketball team, Stevens was on point most of the game against the Warriors. Stevens threw for 463 yards and five touchdowns, and one interception, the only turnover of the game. Stevens attempted 32 passes and completed 14 and it seemed half of his completions were big plays.

“He’s a great quarterback,” Thomas said. “He got to the open targets.”

His touchdown passes went for 76, 69, 14, 50 and 75. Sawyer Olesko had touchdown receptions of 76 and 14 yards.

In the first half Lowell made the big plays, Western had the long drives and the results were similar as the teams were tied 14-14.

Stevens’ 76-yard touchdown pass Steed opened the scoring for Lowell and the Red Arrows led 7-0 with 58 seconds left in the first quarter.

Western, held without a first down on its first four series, went 72 yards in eight plays as Thomas scored on 1-yard run to tie the score two minutes later.

Stevens’ 41-yard pass to Olesko set up Dean’s 1-yard touchdown run and Lowell took a 14-7 with 5:57 left in the half. At first Olesko bobbled the ball before securing it on his chest as he hit the grass surface.

Thomas completed his first four attempts on the next drive totaling 75 yards to move the ball to the 2-yard line. Three plays later Prokes scored from a yard out to tie the game with 3:42 remaining.

Lowell had 235 yards in the half to 161 for Western. Stevens was four-of-10 for 159 yards and for Western Thomas was 10-for-17 for 155.