BY DAN STICKRADT
LAPEER — Christopher Melton didn’t need several touches on the football Friday night. In fact, the Lapeer West senior only had four carries against Holly.
None was bigger than the last play of the game.
Melton scored on a two-year run up the middle to give Lapeer West a thrilling, 27-21, overtime Flint Metro League football victory over visiting Holly.
“I wasn’t worried because I knew our defense would stop them and our (offensive line) would create the hole,” said Melton, who scored his first varsity career game-winning touchdown. “We knew once (we got the ball back) that it was (our game).”
The win came in bizarre fashion for Lapeer West (4-2, 4-2), which was held scoreless for the final 37:42 of regulation.
“We found a way to win,” sighed Lapeer West coach Mike Smith. “We’re a little bit banged up right now but we had a chance to win it in overtime and the guys pulled through. It was a team win. But hats off to Holly for coming back on us and forcing overtime. They have two players on their team that are as good as anybody in our league. I never felt comfortable, even with us leading 21-0.”
Trailing 21-14 with 34 seconds left in the third quarter, Holly senior quarterback Johnny Williams, the reigning FML MVP, guided a quick 3-play drive that was capped by Williams’ 41-yard sprint with 11:04 to play. Williams broke multiple tackles en route to paydirt.
Holly also had late drive stalled out by a half yard on the Lapeer West 28 with 6:24 left in regulation.
The Bronchos (2-4, 2-4) had two chances in overtime to go ahead. Williams’ 22-yard strike on fourth-and 22 was dropped in the end zone, but Holly was given new life on a rushing the passer penalty. Three plays later, Williams was picked off on the Lapeer West 1-yard line, giving the Panthers a chance to steal the game.
Melton delivered the knockout blow.
“I am so proud of our boys for fighting back,” offered Holly coach Ryan Culloty, whose team must win out of forge a 5-4 record and hope for an at-large postseason berth. “We had a bad start. It probably couldn’t have been any worse. But we kept working hard, caught a couple of breaks and battled back.”
It was the second nail-biting loss for Holly in four weeks, including a 36-34 setback to Fenton in Week 3.
Lapeer West scored on the game’s first play and converted a pair of turnovers into 14 points to quickly build a 21-0 lead by the time the was just 10:18 old.
The Panthers took the opening kickoff back, thanks to a 57-yard return by Monta Stangler only 16 seconds into the game to go up 7-0.
Stangler, who finished the night with 94 yards on 14 carries, scored again on a 15-yard run with 4:34 left in the opening frame, this time capping a 10-play, 82-yard drive.
The Panthers tucked another score after Nicholas Webber picked off Williams, which set up a four-play drive that went 63 yards. Quarterback Hunter Sharrard found Zeshawn Jones-Parker for a 24-yard fade pass in the corner of the end zone and Cullen Turczyn connected on his third extra point for the 21-point advantage with 1:42 still left in the opening quarter.
Evan Papuga finally got Holly untracked when he scooped up a botched punt and rambled 45 yards for the score with 10:40 left in the second quarter.
Williams finished the night with 30 rushes for 190 yards and was 5-for-12 passing for 35 yards. The Bronchos only had 237 total yards of offense.
“This one hurts because we worked so hard to come back only to fall short,” said Culloty.”We’ll have to keep trucking, keep going to work and finish strong the last three weeks and hope for the best.”
Sharrard finished 12-for-19 for 153 yards for Lapeer West. Turczyn had three grabs for 54 yards and Jones-Parker also had three catches for 51 yards.
The Panthers collected 328 yards of offense, but only a combined 83 yards during the second half and overtime
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