McKinley pulls away from Lake after successful fake punt

BY Mike Popovich

 

LAKE TWP. The only thing missing in a game full of everything was a little trickery.

McKinley obliged late in the third quarter Friday night.

The Bulldogs turned a successful fake punt into a 21-point run that helped them pull away from Lake 55-35 at Blue Streak Stadium.

The game was slipping away from McKinley when Paul Troyer threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Tye Hunt and Cameron Martin returned an interception 50 yards for a TD to cut the Bulldogs' lead to 35-28.

McKinley gambled just inside midfield on fourth-and-12 and won.

Punter Matthew Reardon ran a successful fake and threw a 30-yard pass to Lameir Garrett to give the Bulldogs a first down at the Lake 22. Alijah Curtis' 16-yard touchdown pass to Daylin Daniels two plays later restored order for McKinley.

The Blue Streaks never recovered.

"It was a read," Bulldogs head coach Dan Reardon said of the fake punt attempt. "He had the option to punt it or if they didn't cover the pass he could throw it. He made a good decision and executed the play. Obviously it was kind of a safe call."

Garrett and Te'Von Hunter tacked on touchdown runs to help the Bulldogs pull away and improve to 6-0. The unbeaten start was in jeopardy before the fake punt.

"At the time Lake had all the momentum," Curtis said. "It was fourth-and-long, and Matthew Reardon stepped in and made a real good play. That's our backup quarterback and that's what we expect from our guys. He made a real big play, and that helped us win the game."

There were other big plays as well.

Khyree Woody set a McKinley record with 207 yards receiving on 10 catches, including a touchdown. Stark County High School Football Hall of Famer Reggie Corner held the record since 2000 with 206 yards on 13 catches. Curtis finished 15-of-21 passing for 257 yards and two TDs. Garrett ran for 124 yards and three scores.

McKinley's offense is explosive. When the Bulldogs score in other ways, they are even tougher to beat.

Daimere Benson returned a blocked punt 9 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. Brian Pinkney also had a 31-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter.

"Three phases of the game," Curtis said. "... We can't do it with just offense. Defense and special teams stepped up and gave us points. That was big."

The Bulldogs started fast and withstood two Lake comebacks.

It took McKinley just over two minutes to open the scoring. The Bulldogs drove 70 yards on the game's first drive and grabbed a 7-0 lead on Garrett's 4-yard touchdown run.

McKinley's special teams struck next when Benison corralled the football after a blocked punt and returned it 9 yards for a touchdown to give the Bulldogs a 14-7 lead.

A good response drive after the blocked punt return started Lake's first comeback. The Blue Streaks drove 80 yards in 13 plays and got on the board on Martin's 4-yard touchdown run.

Lake appeared to have all the momentum in the world after Sean-Michael James' 37-yard touchdown run tied the game at 14-14. A 43-yard pass from Troyer to Hunt set it up.

It took McKinley just 32 seconds to seize the momentum back from Lake.

A holding penalty on the first play of the next drive pinned the Bulldogs deeper in their own territory. Woody quickly pushed them out. He caught a screen pass from Curtis, eluded several Blue Streaks defenders and raced 84 yards for a touchdown.

The Blue Streaks went three-and-out on their next drive. Holding and illegal man downfield penalties on the Bulldogs forced a first-and-26 from their own 42, but McKinley was able to overcome that.

Curtis connected with Hunter for a 14-yard gain, then raced 19 yards for a first down on fourth-and-6. Three plays later, Garrett scored on a 2-yard run to give McKinley a 28-14 halftime lead.

The Bulldogs finished with a 517-331 advantage in total yards. Hunt finished with five catches for 103 yards and two touchdowns for Lake, which dropped to 3-3.

 

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