Lapeer finally gets past postseason roadblock, beating Oxford 35-10 to win district title
LAPEER — Getting past the district finals has been a roadblock for Lapeer since the district merged its two high schools five years ago.
The Lightning certainly got over the hump Friday in a Division 1 district finals and struck some championship hardware.
After trailing 10-7 in the second quarter, Lapeer scored 28 unanswered points to down visiting Oxford 35-10 for the district championship — the school’s first since Lapeer East and Lapeer West merged in 2014.
The Lightning’s reward is to host defending D-1 state champion Clarkston next Friday in the regional finals. The Elite Eight appearance will be the first for the Lapeer community since Lapeer West reached the Division 3 regional finals in 2003.
“We’ve been in this (district finals) game three of the last five years, so it’s nice to finally win a district as a unified (school),” said Lapeer coach Mike Smith. “I thought our big pass play at the end of the first half and the fact that we had the ball on our own (6) in the second half and drove it all the way down the field — those were key drives. We controlled the ball and used up some clock.”
Trailing late in the second quarter, Lapeer quarterback Brady Apple found a streaking Drew Johnston down the right sideline for a 45-yard bomb pass for a 14-10 lead with 30.4 seconds left in the half.
The unbeaten Lightning (11-0) outscored Oxford 21-0 in the second half and outgained the Wildcats by a wide 346-178 margin in the contest.
Defensively, Lapeer held Oxford to only 70 yards of offense in the second half.
Coming out of the break, Lapeer used a 13-play 60-yard drive capped by Jalen Kirkland barreling into the end zone from 7 yards out with 6:05 remaining in the third for the 21-10 lead.
After Oxford missed a 28-yard field goal, the Wildcats never seriously threatened to score again.
Two drives later, the Lightning drove 94 yards over 13 more plays and scored again with 4:08 to go in the third stanza. This time it was Kirkland plowing through the line on a 5-yard run for a 28-10 advantage.
Lapeer iced the game with 1:49 to go on Brandon Lilly’s 6-yard run. Cody Fick converted all five extra points in the contest.
Kirkland finished with 116 yards on 21 carries to lead the Lightning. Apple was 7-for-13 passing for 99 yards and one touchdown pass.
“It was a tight game in the first half. I thought defensively that we really did a great of of not letting them move the football,” added Smith. “And we were able to have the nice long drives.”
Lapeer opened the scoring when Phoenix Dickson reached the end zone on a 12-yard scamper with 6:30 left in the opening quarter for a 7-0 lead.
Oxford played Lapeer even in the first half, but could not keep the Lightning from striking several times during the final two quarters.
“That was good old-fashioned butt-whipping,” offered Oxford coach Bud Rowley, whose team went from 2-7 last season to 8-3 this year. “They beat us in every (facet) of the game — the kicking game, offense, defense. That is a really good football team and we were never in the game in the second half.”
Oxford closed to within 7-3 following Samuel McMaken’s 26-yard field goal. The Wildcats took their only lead of the contest with 2:54 remaining in the second quarter when Drew Carpenter’s 29-yard heave on fourth-and-nine was hauled in by Joseph Miller.
Carpenter had 108 passing yards for Oxford, although he completed just 5 of 18 passes. Marcus Hufnagel caught two passes for 58 yards for the Wildcats.