FOOTBALL: Dragons singe Dakota to reach Final Four
BY DAN STICKRADT
LAKE ORION — Three times in the last decade, Macomb Dakota ushered Lake Orion from the Division 1 football state tournament.
Finally on Friday, the Dragons gained some measure of revenge. Check that, major measure of revenge.
Lake Orion burned up visiting Dakota with a lopsided 51-35 victory in a Division 1 regional final, sending the Dragons to the Final Four for the third time in five years and for the fourth time in coach Chris Bell’s 15 seasons.
Dakota (10-2) had its 10-game win streak snapped and suffered its most lopsided loss in more than a decade.
Dakota defeated Lake Orion in the postseason back in 2004, 2005 and 2007.
“It’s a credit to the kids and the coaching staff,” said Bell of his team’s third Final Four in five seasons. “These kids knew the expectation and the hard work it takes to get this far. It’s hard to get there. But once you get this far, you always want to make it back.”
Lake Orion (11-1), which has only a 21-14 setback to top-ranked Clarkton in Week 8 this season, never trailed the Cougars.
Jacob Miller helped wipe those previous defeats and the Cougars off the map by torching Dakota for 224 yards on 27 carries and three scores. Miller plunged home on runs of 1, 68 and 1 yards and had 189 yards by halftime.
“Two years ago I learned from Marques Stevenson,” credited Miller of the Dragons’ former All-State running back. “I just watched what he did and learned from that. Now, I try to go out there and do what it takes to help this team out.”
Every time Dakota scored, Lake Orion had the quick answer.
With its array of speedy backs and lengthy receivers, Dakota simply could not shut down the Dragons, who punted just one time in the contest. Lake Orion amassed over 400 yards of offense.
Lake Orion built a 24-0 with 6:54 still left in the second quarter and led 31-7 at the half. Dakota scored on four straight possessions of the second half but could never make much of a dent in the large deficit.
Dakota coach Mike Giannone didn’t see the Dragons explosiveness in last week’s 10-7 win over Utica Eisenhower.
“I saw it from the sideline tonight instead of on film,” sighed Giannone. “They are fast and they were coached-up. I think they had more speed than we originally thought.”
Derek Delaura was 5-for-6 passing for 96 yards and two touchdown passes. Dominick Giovinazzo added 76 yards on six rushes and Chaz Miller had three catches for 55 yards on a pair of touchdown grabs as part of a balanced effort by Lake Orion, which rotated eight ball carriers and receivers.
“We have a lot of the guys that can really go, just a bunch of great athletes and some young kids that are coming along, too,” said Bell. “Tonight it was Jacob Miller. He’s such an unselfish player. It doesn’t matter if we asked him to carry the football five times or 30 times in a game. He’s ready to go.”
Richmon Render finished the night 22-for-35 passing for 245 yards and TD passes of 9, 33 and 1 yards for the Cougars.
Nick Cattaneo scored two rushing touchdowns, both from 1 yard out, and also caught a 1-yard touchdown pass. Brent Shadowens (9-yard TD catch) and Angelo Dimagio (33-yard touchdown catch) also scored for eighth-ranked Dakota.
Lake Orion will face defending state champion Detroit Cass Tech (9-3) in the state semifinals next Saturday.
“We played them two years ago and barely beat them and we know they have a lot of big, physical kids, a lot of speed and a quarterback that is a year older,” said Bell. “We are expecting another great game.”
(Dan Stickradt is Senior Editor for Digital Daily www.northoaklandsports.com and The Real Deal sports and coupons magazine, as well as a freelance writer for multiple media outlets, including State Champs! High School Sports Show website. He is a 20-year veteran sports journalist based in Oakland County, Mich. He can be reached by email at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @LocalSportsFans.)