Johnson’s late touchdown leads WL Western past West Bloomfield in season opener
Detroit – While the season opener between Walled Lake Western and West Bloomfield was expected to be a high scoring affair, Thursday’s game at the Prep Kickoff Classic at Wayne State University turned out to be more of a defensive battle.
Western, last year’s Division 2 runner-up, used a late touchdown from junior quarterback Sam Johnson and turned away West Bloomfield in the closing seconds to hold on for a 19-14 win.
“This is huge,” Western head coach Mike Zdebski said. “We opened up with the No. 3 team in the state and some rank them wherever they are, that’s a really good and well coached team over there. So this is huge, we put so much time into this since December to prepare for this moment and when you do what we did, it feels great.”
After Western took a 13-7 lead in the third quarter on Aidan Jennings’ second field goal of the game, West Bloomfield responded shortly after as Bryce Veasley took off on a 51-yard run, which set up a 4-yard touchdown run by the senior signal caller to put West Bloomfield back on top, 14-13.
Both defenses would put together strong stands throughout the fourth quarter to keep it a one-point game, but Western would put together a 70-yard drive, capped off by a Sam Johnson 2-yard touchdown run to put the Warriors on top, 19-14 with 2:15 left to play.
“It was fun, but it was a tough one,” Johnson said. “Thanks to my o-line and thanks to my defense for getting that stop on the last drive. But like I said, it was fun and we just came out here and made plays.”
Johnson, playing in his first game with Western since transferring in from Southfield A&T after the 2016 season finished the game completing 17-of-30 pass attempts for 230 yards and accounted for two rushing touchdowns on the day.
After West Bloomfield made one final drive down the field and inside the Western 30-yard line, the Lakers had a couple of chances to put the ball in the end zone, but the Western defense turned the Lakers away as a pass from Veasley was well defended by sophomore defensive back Abdur-Rahmaan Yaseen and fell incomplete as time expired, securing Western’s 19-14 win.
“I just had to focus and shut him down,” Yaseen said. “I’m going for the ball, I’m going for the pick, but my guy was there and he didn’t get his feet in there.”
In the first half, West Bloomfield struck first on a quarterback sneak from one-yard out by Veasley to put the Lakers ahead 7-0 early on.
But Western would respond with a touchdown of its own as Johnson notched the first of his two rushing touchdowns on the day with a two-yard run with just 14.5 seconds left before halftime.
Despite the loss, West Bloomfield head coach Ron Bellamy praised the play of his defense, limiting Western to 19 points on the day and keeping his team in the game throughout.
“Our defense played a hell of a game,” he said. “The team that wins the turnover battle is the team that’s going to win the game, it happens 75-percent of the time – at any level, high school, college, pros, it happens 75-percent of the time. We had a sack, fumble, a Mustapha fumble and a blocked kick and that was the difference in the game.”