Kickoff return steals Laker lightning, leads Spruce to 30-21 win

INTERCEPTION — Laker defensive back Nick Wandishin picks off a second half Spruce Mountain pass. (Rivet Photo)

INTERCEPTION — Laker defensive back Nick Wandishin picks off a second half Spruce Mountain pass. (Rivet Photo)

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Momentum — and football games — can change on a dime.

Down 24-7 in the third quarter, Lake Region desperately needed a spark. Senior Marcus DeVoe delivered one when he picked off a pass by Spruce Mountain’s Caulin Parker and returned the interception for a touchdown.

Spruce Mountain junior fullback Dillon Webster had terrorized the Lakers for most of the night, but on the next possession the blue and gold held the line as Paul Angelone and Thomas Noble stuffed #36 for a three-yard loss. So, the Phoenix went to the air once more, and suffered the same result. This time, senior defensive back Nick Wandishin picked off the errant throw by sophomore back-up quarterback Brent Frey.

Faced with a 2nd-and-20 thanks to two penalties, the Lakers had their fans suddenly delirious as DeVoe took a quick pass near the sideline and beat the Phoenix secondary for a 47-yard TD. DeVoe booted the extra point, and LR was thinking upset.

But, the Phoenix (1-1) answered with an 88-yard kickoff return on the next play and held off an inspired Laker comeback, 30-21 at Art Kilborn Athletic Complex Friday night.

Lake Region (0-2) struggled to contain Spruce’s off tackle and option rushing attack in the first half. Webster was the main culprit, rushing for a game-high 198 yards on 20 carries (9.9 per carry average). Quarterback Parker also feasted on the Laker D in the first half, finishing the night with 117 yards on 14 carries (8.4 ypc).

Webster broke loose for 32 yards on his first touch of the night, and Parker finished off the quick scoring drive with a 15 yard burst for a quick 8-0 Phoenix lead with under two minutes off the game clock.

LR running back Lexus Rodriguez put his club in position to answer with a 24-yard gain on a sweep, but the drive stalled when a pass from quarterback Doug Banks intended for Wandishin was tipped and intercepted by Parker.

CELEBRATION — Lake Region wide receiver Marcus DeVoe celebrates after scoring a touchdown. (Rivet Photo) SPRUCE MOUNTAIN 30, LAKERS 21 First Downs: LR 9, SM 18 Penalties: LR 10-70, SM 9-55 Turnovers: LR 2, SM 5 Rushing: LR 31-85, SM 47-383 Passing: LR 9-29, 207 yards; SM 5-12, 74 yards LR rushing: Doug Banks 9-(20), Jordan Williams 8-18, Dakota Stover 5-25, Lexus Rodriguez 9-59 Spruce rushing: Dillon Webster 20-198, Caulin Parker 14-117, Nathan Frost 1-3, Austin Henault 5-34, Andrew Darling 7-31 LR receiving: Jordan Williams 1-12, Nick Wandishin 2-18, Dakota Stover 3-112, Marcus DeVoe 3-65 Spruce receiving: Andrew Darling 1-20, Austin Henault 2-29, Brett Frey 1-8, James Ouellette 1-17 LR tackles (solo, assist, total): Nick Wandishsin 5-1-6, Ben Roakes 1-1-2, Paul Angelone 4-1-5, Jordan Williams 5-1-6, Dan Neault 2-1-3, Lexus Rodriguez 3-4-7, Nick Lepage 3-2-5, Todd Crawford 1-1-2, Dakota Stover 4-0-4, Marcus DeVoe 1-1-2, Jay Justason 2-1-3 Interceptions: Nick Wandishin, Marcus DeVoe (2) Up next: The Lakers (0-2) travel to Rumford Friday night to meet Mountain Valley (0-2) at 7 p.m. The Falcons lost last week to Yarmouth.

CELEBRATION — Lake Region wide receiver Marcus DeVoe celebrates after scoring a touchdown. (Rivet Photo)
SPRUCE MOUNTAIN 30, LAKERS 21
First Downs: LR 9, SM 18
Penalties: LR 10-70, SM 9-55
Turnovers: LR 2, SM 5
Rushing: LR 31-85, SM 47-383
Passing: LR 9-29, 207 yards; SM 5-12, 74 yards
LR rushing: Doug Banks 9-(20), Jordan Williams 8-18, Dakota Stover 5-25, Lexus Rodriguez 9-59
Spruce rushing: Dillon Webster 20-198, Caulin Parker 14-117, Nathan Frost 1-3, Austin Henault 5-34, Andrew Darling 7-31
LR receiving: Jordan Williams 1-12, Nick Wandishin 2-18, Dakota Stover 3-112, Marcus DeVoe 3-65
Spruce receiving: Andrew Darling 1-20, Austin Henault 2-29, Brett Frey 1-8, James Ouellette 1-17
LR tackles (solo, assist, total): Nick Wandishsin 5-1-6, Ben Roakes 1-1-2, Paul Angelone 4-1-5, Jordan Williams 5-1-6, Dan Neault 2-1-3, Lexus Rodriguez 3-4-7, Nick Lepage 3-2-5, Todd Crawford 1-1-2, Dakota Stover 4-0-4, Marcus DeVoe 1-1-2, Jay Justason 2-1-3
Interceptions: Nick Wandishin, Marcus DeVoe (2)
Up next: The Lakers (0-2) travel to Rumford Friday night to meet Mountain Valley (0-2) at 7 p.m. The Falcons lost last week to Yarmouth.

Spruce jumped to a 16-0 lead with 1:12 left in the first quarter, driving 67 yards in seven plays with Parker scoring from 3 yards out. Parker completed passes of 20 and 17 yards to set up the score.

Lake Region gave the Phoenix a different look using the shotgun formation. QB Doug Banks hooked up with Dakota Stover down the sideline for a 38-yard gain to keep the drive alive, and later found DeVoe for 12 yards on a critical fourth down call. Stover capped off the 14-play, 71-yard drive by beating Phoenix defenders to the outside and sprinting 22 yards for a score with 7:24 left. DeVoe booted the extra point.

“Against Yarmouth, they had nine in the box at times and we didn’t do a great job of forcing them to back off. This week, we knew that Spruce likes to send their linebackers. Trying to run against that would be very difficult. We knew we had soften them up with the pass.”

Going to a shotgun formation, Coach Jahna felt it would allow Banks to see the field better.

“It helped. We would like to see him make some quicker decisions, and avoid taking some sacks,” Coach Jahna said. “He did throw the ball well. We have three tremendous receivers in Dakota, Nick and Marcus (DeVoe). If we can get the ball out to them, we will find some success. The offensive line did a fantastic job. We put in some new schemes this week to go along with the shotgun, and they picked it up extremely well. They stayed on their blocks, played tough and played smart.”

After a solid defensive stand (a three-and-out), the Laker defense were torched by Webster (16 yards) and Parker (27 yards) as the clock ticked toward halftime. Andrew Darling completed the 60-yard drive with a sweep play around the right side from 10 yards out, and Webster added the two-point conversion for a seemingly comfortable 24-7 lead at the break.

The Phoenix, however, found fewer gaps in the Laker front line in the second half, as the LR defense stepped up its game.

“After halftime, we made some adjustments to their option because we hadn’t defended it very well. They ran it out of a slightly different formation than we thought they would. I thought in the second half, we did a pretty nice job,” Laker Coach Brian Jahna said.

After three rushing plays moved the ball to the LR 40, the Phoenix tried to go deep down the sideline, but Parker’s pass was intercepted by Wandishin, who recorded two picks on the night.

“Making big stops and not giving up it what this team does. They played hard. We were able to get a couple of turnovers, which helped us get back into the game,” the coach said.

Spruce had a chance to land a knockout punch early in the fourth quarter. Deep inside Laker territory, Parker looked for his tight-end Nick Lombardi in the end zone on a fourth down play, but at the last second, Wandishin tipped the ball away.

LR dodged another bullet with 1:53 left when a ball was fumbled inside the red zone and recovered by Rodriguez.

Banks got the Lakers out of the hole when he fired a pretty deep ball, which Stover made a nifty over-the-shoulder catch between two Phoenix defenders, good for 30 yards. Stover had a big night, catching three balls for 112 yards (37.3 ypc).

“Dakota (Stover) was an entirely different player than a week ago. He played with a lot of grit, hung in there and didn’t take a play off,” Coach Jahna said. “He did a wonderful job.”

In the loss, Coach Jahna saw plenty to like. He praised the efforts of Nick Wandishin

“Nick is a tough kid. He has been doing it since he was a freshman varsity player. Technically sound,” the coach said. “He twisted his knee near the end of the game, went to the sideline, but returned to finish the game strong.”

He added, “Giving up some big plays is where we run into depth issues. We got a few guys back this week, which really helped and will get a few more back this week. We have some freshmen on special teams to give other guys a breather, so you are going to have some breakdowns from time to time. On the kickoff, they (Spruce) found the hole and got us. We wanted to keep the momentum, but on that play, they got it back. What really killed us were some mental lapses and penalties. We need better focus. We got a little sloppy. We’re still working with different combinations, which has something to do with it, but ultimately we need better focus.”

Now, the Lakers move on to face Mountain Valley, two clubs that have opened the season 0-2.

“We’re getting better,” Coach Jahna said. “Once we get all our people in their positions, I think we’re going to be in good shape.”

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