Bear Lake defeats Crossroads 38-28 Saturday

Bear Lake’s Dalton Myers (11) turns the corner and heads upfield during the Lakers’ 38-28 win over Big Rapids Crossroads Saturday night. Myers finished with 288 yards rushing in the game. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

Bear Lake’s Dalton Myers (11) turns the corner and heads upfield during the Lakers’ 38-28 win over Big Rapids Crossroads Saturday night. Myers finished with 288 yards rushing in the game. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

BRETHREN — Bear Lake won its first football game of the season Saturday night, overcoming injuries and mistakes to beat Big Rapids Crossroads 38-28 at Brethren High School. 

The win improves the Lakers to 2-3 overall and 2-2 in West Michigan D League play, but it was the first time they left a football field victorious this season as their other win came by way of a forfeit.

The win total matches that of all of last year, their first year of existence as a football program.

Bear Lake head coach John Prokes said that his team played well enough to win, despite the miscues.

“Did we play the way I want us to play? No, not even close,” Prokes said. “We battled. There were times when we could have continued to lose confidence and give them the momentum, but when we made a mistake we recovered from it. It was a learning moment.”

The Lakers were without the services of starting quarterback Andre Brown, who Prokes said was in concussion protocol, and was replaced by sophomore backup Tate Aultman. Aultman finished with one completion for nine yards, and 22 yards rushing, a number that was hampered by several sacks and miscues on snaps from the Laker shotgun formation.

Prokes said that he liked what he saw in Aultman’s first career start at quarterback.

“He’s a smart kid, he know how to execute the plays, but it was a struggle for him to hold onto the football,” Prokes said. “I like the way he came back and battled. It’s easy to lose confidence if you start to blame yourself. He fixed it.”

Fellow sophomore Dalton Myers led the way for the Lakers, rushing for 288 yards on 26 carries in the game, scoring two touchdowns and one 2-point conversion.

Myers started strong, running 48 yards for a touchdown on the second play from scrimmage, and then running in the conversion to give Bear Lake a quick 8-0 lead 34 seconds into the contest.

The Lakers doubled the lead with a 16-play drive capped off with an 8-yard TD run by Reagan Merril and successful conversion by Aultman with 2:29 left in the first quarter.

Myers broke off another big touchdown run, for 53 yards on the second play of the second quarter to make the score 22-0.

Crossroads (1-4 overall, 0-3 WMDL) got on the board thanks to a Bear Lake miscue, when Cougar senior Keegan McKinnon scooped up a Laker fumble and stepped into the end zone from about 10 yards out to cut the lead to 22-6.

The Cougars scored again on a 60-yard touchdown pass with 2:35 left in the half that made the score 22-12. 

“That one is on me,” Prokes said. “I dialed up a blitz, and they threw right into it.”

Bear Lake scored again, on a safety with 18 seconds left in the half to take a 24-12 lead into the locker room.

The Lakers came out firing after the break, scoring on a 9-play, 65-yard drive capped off with a 2-yard TD plunge by Austin O’Brien that made the score 30-12.

Ethan Groll set up Bear Lake’s next touchdown when he recovered a Crossroads fumble and the Cougar 40-yard line.

Four plays later, Merrill ran 15 yards for a score, and then added the conversion to stretch the lead to 38-12 with 2:51 left in the third.

Bear Lake had to hang on at the end, as Crossroads broke off two huge pass plays in the fourth quarter, one that set up a 1-yard plunge with 10:27 left in the contest and another for 91 yards and a score with 2:28 left, but that would be as close as they would get.

Merrill finished the game with 41 yards rushing and two touchdowns on seven carries, and O’Brien amassed 35 yards on 15 carries in the game.

Prokes said that, a year and a half since the program began, he’s seeing signs of a Bear Lake football culture starting to emerge.

“Every week it’s improving, but it’s a work in progress. We still have guys checking to see if we’re offense or defense,” he said. “But they’re getting better and they’re learning how to play football. You’ve got to play tired, you have to play hurt, you have to play sore.

“So far, they’re having fun playing, and that’s the most important thing to me.”

Next up for the Lakers is what soccer fans would call a local derby, against Brethren on the home field for both teams. The Lakers will be the home team officially in the game, which kicks off at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 28.

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Posted by Scott Yoshonis

Scott is the sports editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3112 or syoshonis@pioneergroup.com.

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