Friday night’s 16-0 victory over Sparta took the opposite. Timely scoring and persistent defense granted the Lakers a win in their O-K Blue Conference opener and their first 3-0 start since 2010.
Neither team managed to score in the first quarter, but the Lakers found the endzone in the second to take a 6-0 lead into halftime. A field goal and a long touchdown run in the final frame sealed the win.
Caleb Montgomery continued to lead the Spring Lake offense with dominant quarterback play, scoring both Laker touchdowns while racking up 274 yards of total offense.
The first touchdown came on a 9-yard run with one minute left in the opening half. The second, a 62-yard run with 3:05 left in the game.
Junior kicker Matt Bierman completed the Laker scoring with a 15-yard field goal on the second play of the fourth quarter.
The Spring Lake defense made the day, holding a Sparta offense that scored 28 and 41 points in their opening two games to a shutout by negating the prolific rushing prowess of quarterback Jakel Davis.
The secret was execution and, oddly, lack of pressure. The Spring Lake defensive line refrained from rushing the quick runner, giving him ample time to squirm in the pocket before lofting long passes downfield. At the business end of those throws, the Lakers’ defensive backs held strong, employing extended coverage without fault.
“That was the plan this week,” said Spring Lake head coach Dan Start on WGHN after the game. “We wanted to make sure that if he beat us it wouldn’t be with his speed, it would be with 30- or 40-yard passes.
“I knew it was going to be a dogfight tonight, one of those games that test your character. Tonight, we were going to see if we were a team or a bunch of individuals. I told our defense, ‘You aren’t getting any sacks this week,’ and they were fine with that. They were keeping him in the pocket and frazzling him by sticking to the game plan.”
It wasn’t all humdrum for the defense, however. The intense pressure produced a tide-turning pick in the first quarter for Steve Ready. In the second half, Spring Lake dialed up their blitz, eventually producing a huge sack by Blake Kelsey to force Sparta back to fourth and 24 with 3:40 left to play.
The Spartans did plenty to limit their scoring early, as they racked up 11 penalties through the first quarter and did not slow their pace of infractions.
Leading the defense was Wyatt Lisman with seven solo tackles, ahead of Gavin Alban and Noah Verlinde with five apiece.
Montgomery finished 6-for-9 passing for 107 yards, completing three passes to Emmanuel Wilson on three targets for 51 yards, one pass to Austin Schubert for 5 yards, one pass to Aiden Carlson for 15 yards and one pass to himself, catching a tipped ball at the line of scrimmage and breaking away for a 37-yard gain.
Montgomery led all rushers with 176 yards on the ground on 25 carries, scoring two touchdowns. Mitch Payne followed with 15 yards on six attempts.
The victory is the Lakers first over the Spartans since joining the O-K Blue and serves as a springboard into the looming league season.
“These guys are dialed in,” Start added. “They are itching. They know they get to celebrate for 24 hours then come Sunday, we are dialed in on Coopersville.
“This year, I think the playing field has been leveled in the league, at least among the public schools. There is going to be a bunch of these types of games. It’s going to be fun.”
The Broncos will come to Grabinski Field next week as the Lakers celebrate homecoming.