Muskies Counter Punch Too Much for Ravens
If there is one thing we are learning about the Lakeland University Muskies early on, is that they know how to respond. The counter punch has been the trademark of this team early on this season, as they have responded immediately after teams have scored against him. That was on display on Saturday afternoon, as four times the Anderson University Ravens scored only to see Lakeland respond with points of their own. That helped lead the team to a decisive 54-41 victory.
This was an outstanding performance by the Muskies offense, which put up 566 total yards, including 339 through the air. The defense was spectacular as well, holding Anderson to just 10 yards rushing and 236 total yards of offense.
The contest began as a defensive struggle, as neither team was able to score on either of their first two positions. That included the Ravens getting the ball at the Lakeland 43 after a fumble turned the ball over. However, their seven play drive moved the ball just 5 yards before they were forced to punt.
On the third possession, Anderson would finally find the end zone. The drive was set up by a muffed punt by Lakeland that gave the Ravens the ball at the Lakeland 6-yard line. One play later, Tyson Harley found Zac Tallent in the end zone to put the Ravens up by seven.
The Muskies were unfazed. They quickly went the other direction, moving 74 yards in just 1:20 before tying the score. Larry Rivers led the driver early on, carrying the ball on consecutive plays for 7 yards each time, giving the Muskies a first down at their own 40. That is when quarterback Charl’Tez Nunnery kept the ball, racing 18 yards before being pushed out of bounds. After a Rivers 11-yard carry gave Lakeland another first down, Nunnery connected with Mason Prunick for a 31-yard touchdown, tying the score at seven.
With 5:48 left in the first quarter, Anderson began a long drive that went 71 yards in 17 plays. The drive took 6:34 off the clock, as the Ravens converted three third-down conversions and a fourth-down opportunity. Reggie Lipscomb scored from six yards out and Anderson was back on top, 14-7.
As they had done earlier in the contest, the Muskies responded right away, taking just 1:30 off the clock before moving 75 yards to tie the score at 14. Nunnery led the way, completing consecutive passes to Rivers for 24 total yards. That moved Lakeland into Anderson territory, but a holding call and a false start set up a first and 25 at their own 36. It looked like the drive would stall there, as both of Nunnery’s next to passes fell incomplete but, on the next play, the Lakeland QB found a streaking Prunick for a 64 yard touchdown on a spectacular catch and run.
With a little over four minutes left in the half, Anderson retook the lead on a 42-yard field goal by Caleb Oliver. However, the Muskies responded once again, moving 75 yards in 10 plays to take a 21-17 lead. Rivers bailed his team out early in the drive when they faced a third and 9 at their own 39, finding an alley and rushing for 13 yards before being tackled at the Anderson 48. Later in the drive, Lakeland faced a third-down and 6 at the Ravens 32, and Rivers delivered again, busting up the gut and rushing 32 yards for the touchdown to give his team a four-point lead.
Just before the half, the Muskies increased their lead to 11. After a 38-yard punt gave Lakeland the ball at their own 35, Nunnery quickly moved his team down the field, needing just three plays and 31 seconds before the team was back in the end zone. A 13-yard strike to Rivers began the drive. Then, Nunnery found Kolby Cohen for 15 yards to the Anderson 37. On the next play, the Muskies quarterback bought himself a little time before finding Jaylen Rido for 37 yards, the third touchdown pass of the day for the Lakeland QB. That sent the Muskies to the locker room with a 28-17 halftime lead.
On the second possession of the second half, the Muskies extended their lead to 17. After a 20-yard punt gave Lakeland the ball at the Anderson 47, Rivers made an unbelievable run, shaking a couple of tackles before racing the distance for his second touchdown of the day. The point after attempt was no good, giving Lakeland a 34-17 lead.
On the next position for the Ravens, the team was set the punt, but a bad snap forced Oliver to run for his life. He was tackled for a 10-yard loss, giving Lakeland the ball at the Anderson 10. Two plays later, Nunnery connected with Prunick for his third touchdown reception of the day.
The Muskies offense was not done, however. They would add a sixth touchdown just before the end of the third quarter. Starting from their own 17, the Muskies quickly moved down the field, needing just four plays to move 83 yards. Nunnery finished off the drive, scoring from 11 yards out to make it 48-19.
This game looked like it was over, but the Ravens showed a lot of heart, battling back with 22 points in the fourth quarter. The first six of those came on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Harley to James Tucker that made the score 48-25.
Lakeland responded right away, moving 75 yards in 12 plays before Lane Sobieski threw his first touchdown pass of the season, completing it to Devin Martin for 14 yards to make it 54-25.
The Ravens were stopped on their next possession, forced to punt after six plays, but the Anderson defense came up big, forcing a fumble that was recovered and returned by Carl Cooper for a touchdown. The two-point conversion was good, making it 54-33.
On their next possession, the Ravens were back in the end zone. This time it was quarterback Dean Foundos tossing a 5-yard touchdown strike to Tucker and suddenly Anderson trailed by just 13. However, with only 25 seconds left on the clock there simply was not enough time for the Ravens to get back into this game as Lakeland held on for the 54-41 victory.
The Muskies threw five touchdown passes in all, led by Nunnery who completed 14 of 29 passes for 276 yards and four touchdowns. His favorite target was Prunick, who made four receptions for 133 yards and three TDs. Eight different Muskies had at least one reception in the game. Senior running back Larry Rivers continues his assault on the Lakeland rushing records, carrying the ball just 13 times for 145 yards and two TDs. Nunnery had seven carries for 66 yards and a score.
The defense was led by Shazon Crutcher, who had eight tackles on the day. Chris Daniels had two of the six sacks recorded by the Lakeland defense.
Harley had a big day for Anderson, completing 25 to 49 passes, but for just 199 yards. He threw two touchdowns. Tallent had nine catches for 78 yards and a score and Tucker had 10 catches for 73 yards and two touchdowns. The Ravens ground game was virtually nonexistent, as Lipscomb led the team with 25 yards off eight carries.
The Muskies (2-0) welcome the Wisconsin Lutheran College Warriors (0-2) next Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.
by Robert Pannier