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PIGEON — Jason Beagle and his Unionville-Sebewaing Area Patriots take pride in their conditioning.
It showed here Friday night in their Greater Thumb West showdown with Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port.
Instead of floundering in the fourth quarter, the 14-player Patriots flourished, scoring three unanswered touchdowns in the final 7:41 en route to a surprising 21-6 victory over the Lakers.
“The way we run these guys, they should never be tired,” said Beagle. “Most of the kids do not come off the field. They play 48 minutes. You want to talk about kids in game shape? We’re in game shape, no doubt.”
Nobody was in better game shape than USA senior Tim Canfield. The Patriots’ co-captain rushed for 112 yards and one score, and added a 60-yard punt return for another touchdown. Tyler Dick chipped in an insurance touchdown late for the Patriots, who have now won two straight GTW games after a season-opening loss.
Meanwhile, the stunned Lakers have dropped two in a row after opening the season with a promising road win at Carrollton. The Lakers have scored just once in eight quarters since Week 1.
“Their speed got to us,” said EPBP coach George Gardy. “ I thought we played pretty well for three quarters and then they came out and played well in the fourth quarter. That was the difference.
“We just did not do enough offensively. We have to get better.”
The Lakers’ lone score came midway through the second quarter on a 59-yard strike from Brody Lawrence to Tim Warack.
Walter VanHouten led the Lakers with 85 yards on 14 carries.
Other than that, the Lakers were stymied, turning the ball over four times and hurt by untimely penalties which stalled potential scoring drives.
“Lakers are big, they’re bruisers,” Beagle said. “We told them that we just had to hang around. We had to let our conditioning pay off. Our conditioning doesn’t do anything in the first quarter.
“The defensive line did a good enough job of getting some penetration and throwing off their timing. We limited their big plays. And Mike Bednarski, who got hurt early in Week 1 against Ubly, came back and stepped in and played a great game.”
Neither team mustered much offense in the opening half. EPBP finally got on the board at the 6:49 mark of the second quarter when Lawrence lobbed the ball up for Warack, who made a nice juggling catch and raced the rest of the way into the end zone.
The Patriots came back and threatened to punch it in late, but were thwarted as the half ended. Despite that, Beagle was optimistic about the second half.
“At 6-0 in the first half against that team, to us, that’s a victory,” he said. “We knew we could come back.”
Things didn’t turn around for USA until midway through the final quarter. EPBP had the ball at its own 35 with a fourth down and less than a yard to go. Instead of gambling and going for it, Gardy played the percentages and punted to Canfield, who made a few moves to the outside and strolled 60 yards for the game-tying TD.
“Last week against All Saints, he had a kick return which changed the momentum of the game,” Beagle said. “And tonight, that punt return did the same thing.”
After an interception by USA’s Dan Rieck — his first of three fourth-quarter picks — Canfield capitalized when he rambled 65 yards for the go-ahead TD. He also added the 2-pointer, making it 14-6 with 5:02 to play.
After another interception by Rieck gave the ball to USA at the Laker 30 with 3:25 left, Dick scooted in from 10 yards for the game’s final score.
USA hosts undefeated Cass City next week in another important GTW battle.
Beagle will continue to stress conditioning as the season goes on.
“We told them, ‘You’re not going to like this, but this is going to look like track practice, but we have to get you in shape,’” he said. “They haven’t complained. They’re like, ‘OK, let’s go run.’”
The Lakers host Marlette next week in a GTC crossover contest.
“We have to work on some things,” Gardy said. “Hopefully, we can have a good week of practice and get back on track.”
|EPBP’s Tim Warack goes high in the air to snare a TD pass against USA’s Dan Rieck.|
|A slew of EPBP tacklers bring down USA’s Tim Canfield, including Cody Cucinello (59), Nate Krohn (84), John Eile (40) and Jim Kosinski (61).|
|USA quarterback Chris Harper rolls out and looks down field.|
|Jay Richmond hauls down Chris Harper.|