2008-07-24 / Sports

Lapeer County Lions take one on the chin

By Chris Dungey
VIEW Contributor

CAMBRIDGE, ONTARIO — The Lapeer County Lions (4-1) suffered its first loss of the season last Saturday on the road. The Lions fell to the Tri-City Thunder by a 14-12 score. Several adverse factors contributed to a rough evening, though to a man, the coaching staff and players admitted that mediocre, inconsistent play was the main culprit. The Thunder, who normally plays on an excellent field in Kitchener, hosted at an old soccer field measured to 110 yard Canadian specifications. There were no yard stripes, the goal posts were uneven and set just beyond the goal lines, and the rough “pitch” was muddied by an earlier downpour. Throw in Canadian referees, who had a different interpretation of some rules and the stage was set for frustration.

“It was a bad game all around,” noted offensive coach Jeff Simpson. “But we went in overconfident. They were smaller and faster and they had a hot quarterback. I hope this was a wake-up call for us so something good can come out of it.”

The Lions did manage to open scoring in the first quarter. Though the passing attack of both quarterbacks, including Chance Garner sputtered all evening, starter Justin Sortor snuck in from 3-yards out. Tommy Schultz missed the PAT kick.

“It was a good effort but things just didn’t come together,” Sortor said. “I had time to throw, even when they brought eight guys. But our receivers had trouble coming off their breaks on the muddy field. It was weird there. On the last play of the game, I lined up five-yards deep in the end zone and had the goal post in front of me.”

The Thunder came back later in the first half on a 50-yard pass from. The Lions retook the lead in the third quarter when the ever-reliable Cody Halacz (14 carries, 129 yards) lugged the rock in from 4 yards out. Halacz believes that the bus trip was a good bonding time for the team, even though “... we weren’t clicking. They brought the house a few times so I ran some good traps to the left,” he explained.

Halacz was less enthusiastic about the $10-dollar Canadian price for sausage and eggs at a truck stop buffet on the way home. “There’s no way I was paying that,” he added.

Sortor’s pass to Terry Mitchell for the 2-point convert fell incomplete, leaving the score 12-7. With ten minutes left in the game, an illegal man downfield ruling nullified a terrific punt by Matt Butterfield, even though the Lion “gunner”, Dan Yelle had clearly lined up in the backfield. “There’s no instant replay so there was nothing we could do,” Simpson said. The second kick was blocked and the Thunder quarterback threw a 30-yard touchdown to put them ahead to stay.

As fans have come to expect, the defense played strong, allowing just two drives of any duration, only to let down on the two long pass plays. Justin Gavlinski and Dan Yelle led the way, each with 6 solo tackles and 2 assists. Ken Yelle added 4 tackles and 3 assists. Defensive end Rob Purgatori summarized the difficult evening.

“We had a good experience as far as team bonding on the trip. Ken Yelle, Leon Pritchett (Saginaw), Lionel Baldwin (Arthur Hill) and some of the older guys like Kevin Rummler (Macomb Twp.) keep everybody loose and laughing. But I had my worst game — maybe two tackles, and I never could get to their quarterback. I settled for a Slim Jims and Gatorade when we stopped to eat.”

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