It was the blowout almost everyone expected, but there were some consolations for the Vikings at Bethel as they saw their season come to an end by a 42-7 count last Saturday night.
Lake, hamstrung by a rash of key injuries, a toll which mounted as the season progressed, had to play a near-perfect game in order to keep this one close, but a pair of turnovers at the very outset handed the Braves (9-1 and ranked in the state’s top ten) a brace of touchdowns and the blowout, indeed, was on.
The above-mentioned “consolations”?
How about Lake, despite so many crippling injuries, taking second place in Wesco North and earning its way into the State Playoffs? Technically, losing in the opening round gave Lake a tie for 17th place among the state’s 4A teams.
Not bad for a team which finished 5-5, and generally played up to its abilities.
If Lake can savor anything about the loss at Bethel, it’s holding the Braves scoreless in the second half (it was 42-7 at halftime). It’s not as if Bethel wasn’t trying to add more points to the scoreboard, as it played its starters well into the fourth quarter.
The Vikings, out-manned at every position, dug in, played hard, and never gave up.
A contingent of what looked to be about 500 fans made the long trek to Bethel (near Graham) to cheer the Vikings in chilly, wet weather.
Disaster struck right off the bat, when Lake fumbled away the opening kickoff on its own 26. Three Anthony Meray rushes later, Bethel scored its first touchdown.
On its first play from scrimmage after that, a Viking lateral sailed out of bounds for an 11-yard loss. That was followed by a 10-yard holding penalty against Lake, a run for no gain by Brennan Frost, a Jake Nelson incomplete pass, and then Brady Pahukoa’s punt was blocked into the Viking end zone where it was recovered by Nathan Lott for Bethel touchdown number two, at 9:42 of the quarter.
By the time the first quarter ended it was 26-0, at which point Bethel had gained 168 yards in 18 plays, to Lake’s minus 18 yards in 14 plays. Lake managed to rally to put a tally on the board on the final play of the first half.
Trailing 42-0, Lake executed a 16-play, 83-yard drive which featured just one play of over nine yards -- a 37-yard reverse by Brandon Preslar, starting with a pitch from Nelson. That gave Lake a first down on the Braves 38, and the Vikings scored 12 plays later, on another Preslar reverse from four yards out as time expired in the half. Frost, on his one and only PAT kick try of the season, converted it for a 42-7 margin which turned out to be the final score.
Bethel outgained Lake 128 yards to 31 in the second half (402-100 overall) but a resilient Viking defense, playing for pride, kept the Braves off the scoreboard.
Bethel drove to the Viking eight yard line early in the third quarter, but Korey Young, Garek Stuart and Jake Bennett sacked quarterback Justin Hordyk on third down for a five-yard loss, forcing a failed field goal try on the next play.
Later on in the quarter Lake thwarted another Bethel threat when, after the Braves drove to a first down on the Viking 15, Meray was stopped on consecutive plays for zero and minus-one yards, on tackles by Bennett, Young, Jason Mendel and Justin Grow. That set up another failed Bethel field goal.
Early in the fourth quarter, after Bethel drove to a first down on the Viking 18, Young, Preslar and Brandon Belcher tackled Dalton Jackson for a four-yard loss and on fourth down Preslar stripped away what looked like a sure Bethel touchdown reception in the end zone.
Frost netted 54 yards in 17 carries to finish the season with 1165 yards, one of the highest season totals in Viking history. Lake netted 74 yards rushing, Bethel 217. Meray led Bethel with 139 net yards in 21 carries, including three touchdowns.
Hordyk completed 13 of 26 passes and three touchdowns, while Nelson connected on six of 20 for 26 yards. There were no interceptions. Leading Viking tacklers were Bennett and Stuart with 13 each, Chase Crowley, Mendel, Preslar, and Alex Moon with 11 each, and nine by Young.