BY JAKE LOURIM
LAKE ORION — Playing hard just wasn’t enough for Troy Friday against Lake Orion — especially in Dragons’ Country.
“Playing hard only goes so far,” Troy coach Gary Griffith said. “We’ve got to make plays.”
Troy had hopes of upsetting OAA Red Division powerhouse Lake Orion on the road, but the Dragons ran over the Colts, 38-0, to remain unbeaten on the season.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who can make plays,” smiled Lake Orion coach Chris Bell, whose team won for the fifth straight time. “We’ve got guys that if you miss them, they can really (run).”
Hoping to shock the state, Troy stuffed Lake Orion on the opening kickoff and the first play from scrimmage. That was about as good as it got for the Colts.
Lake Orion junior Zachary Arnold, one of several key components from the Dragons’ Division 1 state championship track and field team, scampered for a 79-yard touchdown around left end on the next play. Rain kept falling all night, and things just got worse for the Colts.
Troy (3-2, 2-2) went three-and-out on the next drive and then gave up a long punt return. Lake Orion only managed one first down, but that put the Dragons in field-goal range for a 36-yarder by Jeremy King that made it 10-0.
“Our star tonight was our defense,” Bell said. “To shut them down the way they’ve been running the ball — they had all their kids back tonight — the star tonight was our defense.”
Troy’s defense forced a stop on the next possession, but Lake Orion sacked Colts starter Jay Darish on third down on each of the next two drives.
Darish made his first start since Week 1, when he left just before the half with a knee injury. He played with a brace Friday, but he sprung back up from four sacks and finished 14-for-24 for 119 yards and two interceptions. Senior slot receiver Justin Losey also returned for Troy and led the team in receiving with seven catches for 71 yards.
Senior Brian Johnson came back from an illness to start at center.
With the three starters returning, the Colts were optimistic heading into the showdown.
“I feel sorry for them,” Griffith said. “They gave all they had. They played hard. I don’t think anybody really played well for us.”
The Dragons (5-0, 4-0) returned after a punt with Arnold’s 8-yard touchdown run. That made it 17-0 at the end of the first quarter, and Lake Orion added Corey Ester’s 75-yard touchdown run on a draw with 3:15 left in the half.
“We’ve got guys that if you miss, they’re going to go,” Bell said.
Griffith said his team practiced the draw and the jet sweep all week.
“We knew what was coming,” he said. “Everyone in the stadium knew what was coming. No one made a play.”
Lake Orion sacked Darish again on Troy’s last chance to score before the half.
With the score 24-0, Griffith said his team was fighting for pride in the second half.
“The second half was about trying to man up,” he said. “We can lay down and make it a hundred, or we can try to get back in it.”
The Colts never rolled over, but Lake Orion never stopped, either. The Dragons quickly forced a three-and-out on the first possession of the second half, but Troy did as well and had a chance to fight back.
Lake Orion never gave the Colts any opportunities. The Dragons had speed on the edges and power up the middle with running back Jacob Miller. Their defense was stingy, stifling Troy brothers Terrance Cherry and Torrance Cherry Jr., who had run wild in the previous two weeks.
“You blow assignments, one of those backs is going to go,” Bell said. “Be fundamentally sound, attack what they do, be aggressive and try to win the physical battle up front and try to get to them before they get going.”
They never did quite get going. Terrance Cherry was held to 10 carries for 17 yards, while Torrance Cherry totaled 31 yards on seven rushes.
Troy plays West Bloomfield next week on Homecoming. The Colts set out six weeks ago to reach the playoffs, and they now stand at 3-2 with four more key games.
“That’s still attainable,” Griffith said. “We’ve got to make plays.”
(Jake Lourim is a senior at Troy High School and a member of the S.H.P. Media Group / www.northoaklandsports.com Student Correspondence Program. He is publisher of website www.troycoltsportsupdate.com and a member of the Troy school newspaper editorial staff. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com)