WL Western earns narrow win over South Lyon in playoff opener
Walled Lake — The little things always seem to have a big impact.
On Friday night’s opening round of the MHSAA Division 2 playoffs between Walled Lake Western and South Lyon it couldn’t have been truer.
Thanks to missed extra point, and a crucial defensive stop on fourth down, Western edged South Lyon 14-13 at home to survive and advance in the playoffs.
“(Football) is a game of inches,” Coach Mike Zdebski said. “It came down to a couple of big plays by each team. Both teams have really good defenses, but we both gave up a couple of big plays.”
South Lyon and Western entered the second half tied at 7-7 thanks to two big plays. The Warriors (9-1) scored first on its opening drive of the game on a 55-yard touchdown run by junior Jake Prokes with 1:15 into the first quarter.
The Lions would answer to start the second quarter when senior Anton Skupin hit senior Joe Newman on a quick hook that the 6-foot running back took 52-yards as he fought off both defenders and the sideline for the touchdown.
Both defenses played exceptionally well in the second half limiting only South Lyon to have one first down gained in the third quarter.
Western didn’t obtain its first down of the half until there was 6:23 left in the fourth quarter, but it opened up the gates for the Warriors thanks to another big run.
“(Kyle Thomas) hit a big run on a something we hadn’t run all game, and our offensive line blocked it very well,” Zdebski said.
The junior quarterback took a designed run off the right side for 51 yards for the go ahead touchdown with 6:09 to play giving Western a 14-7 lead.
“I had the tackles and guard pulling, and had room to the right. My line blocked well, and I couldn’t have had a bigger hole to run through,” Thomas said of the play.
Right then, South Lyon coach Mark Thomas said he knew he had to draw up a little excitement, and called a trick play that went for six.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, the Lions (8-2) ran a fake reverse with senior Erich Stephenson to the left side. Stephenson faked out the defense and kept the football, and ran untouched 70 yards to cut into Western’s lead 14-13 with 5:48 left in the game.
“We wanted to run that play to catch them off guard. We wanted to build some excitement, and to get something going. We knew they were going to crowd the line on us, and we wanted to attack the edge,” Thomas said.
With poor weather conditions, the extra point attempt was missed, but according to Thomas he didn’t want his team going for two to take the lead because he had confidence in his defense, which did not disappoint.
The Lions forced the Warriors to turn the ball over on downs deep in South Lyon territory, giving them a chance to drive 76 yards to take the lead.
The drive would stall after the Lions faced a fourth down and short, when the Lions went for it on fourth down. South Lyon appeared to have achieved a first down.
“Mentally you want to prepare yourselves to go back out there, and play defense. When they brought those chains over, I saw daylight,” Zdebski said of the measurement.
A controversial spot showed that the Lions turned the ball over on downs, and gave Western an opportunity to run out the clock to end the game.
“I thought we had it,” Thomas said. “But, it shouldn’t have come down to that. It is what it is. The kids played well, and our seniors played hard all season. Thanks to them, South Lyon football is back.”
Walled Lake Western now awaits the winner of Fenton and Farmington Hills Harrison, who play on Saturday, in the district final.