BY DAN STICKRADT
LAKE ORION — Oxford accomplished something against Lake Orion that few teams have been able to accomplish in recent years: Keep the Dragons off the scoreboard during the first half.
That effort simply awoke a sleeping giant.
Lake Orion scored 17 unanswered, second-half points in topping visiting rival Oxford, 17-10, in the Battle of M-24 in front of nearly 10,000 fans Friday.
Senior running back Jacob Miller scored on a 5-yard run up the middle with 7:24 left, completing the comeback for Lake Orion.
Miller finished the night with 22 carries for 148 yards and two touchdowns — a total of 141 yards came in the second half. Zak Arnold added seven carries for 69 yards for the Dragons, who did not complete a pass.
“We just had to get the offense on the field more and we had to keep our defense off the field — just put some drives together,” said Miller, a third-year varsity veteran. “(Oxford) has a lot of two-way players and we wore them down.”
Lake Orion went to a full-house backfield offense in the second half and simply wore the Wildcats (0-1) down over the final 30 minutes.
“We were making mistakes (in the first half) and the first-year guys were tentative. We weren’t getting the backside linebackers over,” said Lake Orion coach Chris Bell. “We were one guy away and we had a few penalties, dropped a few passes.
“In the second half — we’ve been working hard on this double-back full-house package (offense) — and we’ve been keeping that in our back pocket,” continued Bell. “We’ve got talented athletes. We’ve got a (first-year starting) quarterback. It’s little bit simpler up front but it provides some misdirection, so it can be an effective tool for us. We tried it (and it worked).”
Trailing 10-0, Lake Orion finally got untracked with a six-play, 64-yard drive with Miller plunging in from 1-yard out with 5:50 left in the third stanza.
The Dragons were finally able to tie it up on their next possession when Jeremy King drilled a 38-yard field goal with 1:26 left in the third frame.
“We instilled the no-huddle. It wears people down,” noted Bell. “In the second half we decided to go full house. We decided to make it a physical football game for four quarters and see if they could match up.
“I’m proud of our guys. We won the physical battle in the second half,” added Bell. “That’s the bottom line. We won the physical battle against a very physical football team.”
Defensively, Lake Orion forced Oxford to punt three times in the second half and halted the Wildcats on the Dragons’ 36-yard line, one yard shy of a first down, with 2:59 to play. Lake Orion was able to run out the clock.
“We got nothing (in the second half),” barked Oxford coach Bud Rowley. “They didn’t give us anything in the second half. They kicked our butts the whole second half.”
Two years ago, Lake Orion defeated Oxford 45-6. Last year, Oxford gained its revenge with a 41-20 win.
It appeared that the Wildcats might be on their way to their second straight win over the Dragons.
Oxford (0-1) dominated the time of possession in the first half and built a 10-0 lead at the break.
Junior Josh Nelson booted a 36-yard field goal to put the Wildcats up 3-0 with 3:01 left in the first quarter.
Oxford, which also missed a 37-yard field goal attempt, scored its first touchdown of the season with 33.6 seconds left in the half. Sophomore quarterback Glacier Wallington orchestrated a 16-play, 76-yard drive which culminated with a Wallington to Kyle Anderson 26-yard fade pass.
Lake Orion was stifled offensively in the first half, being held to 24 yards, three plays for negative yardage and only three first downs.
Sophomore Benjamin Line finished his debut with 87 yards on 28 carries. Wallington added 32 yards on 12 carries and threw for 75 yards, all in the first half, on 7-of-10 passing for Oxford.
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