Nunnery, Rivers Lead Muskies to Comeback Victory over Illinois College
Larry Rivers rushed for 177 yards and Charl’Tez Nunnery produced 233 total yards of offense as the Lakeland University Muskies defeated the Illinois College Blueboys on Thursday evening, 28-18. Illinois College had taken an 18-14 lead early in the third quarter, but Nunnery led the team back with a touchdown toss and a rush for another score to earn the victory.
The Muskies took the opening kickoff and marched to the Blueboys 37, where the drive stalled. The Lakeland defense forced a quick punt, and once again the Muskies were back on the march, moving 73 yards in 15 plays down to the Blueboys 25. However, on fourth and 10, Nunnery’s pass fell incomplete, turning the ball over on downs.
This time Illinois College would take advantage, moving 75 yards in 10 plays to take a 6-0 lead. Quarterback Destin Chance got the drive going with a 12-yard completion to Kaden Wayer. The Blueboys looked like there drive with stall when they had a fourth and 4 at the Lakeland 27, but Chance kept the drive alive with an eight-yard pass to Grant Stegman. Chance closed out the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run. The extra point was no good, giving Illinois College a 6-0 lead.
The Muskies responded right away, moving 66 yards on eight plays to take a one-point lead. The big play of the drive came on third and 5, when Nunnery kept the ball and raced for 12 yards. It looked like disaster would occur when Mitch Lillipop knocked the ball free, but Nunnery was able to recover. Three plays later, the Muskies used a little trickery. Caleb Treadwell took the ball on an apparent reverse, but found Damarious Brown for a 24-yard touchdown strike to give Lakeland a 7-6 lead.
Each team was forced to punt on their next possession, but Illinois College would retake the lead with a quick four-play, 76-yard drive. It was two huge plays that led to the score, as Trevor Smalls raced for 38 yards and a first down to the Lakeland 38 on second and 10. Two plays later, Chance found K.J. Corley for a 32-yard touchdown. The Blueboys went for the two-point conversion, but it was stuffed giving Illinois College a 12-7 lead.
As they had before, the Muskies responded right away, moving 65 yards on three plays to retake the lead. This drive looked like it would end quickly, as the team gained just one yard on each of the first two plays. However, Nunnery found Mason Prunick down the middle for a 63-yard touchdown completion to give Lakeland a 14-12 lead heading into the half.
The Blueboys received the opening kickoff of the second half and methodically marched down the field to retake the lead. The 10 play, 64-yard drive started at their own 36, as the team stayed on the ground through the first three plays. That led to a fourth and 1 at their own 45. The coaching staff opted to go for it, and Chance rewarded them with an 8-yard completion for first down. Two plays later, Chance would keep the ball, racing up the middle for 22 yards and another first down. They looked like there drive would end there, when they faced a third and 18 at the Lakeland 32 following a pass interference call, but Chance delivered a strike to Corley down to the 1-yard line. Keyton Mitchell scored on the next play to give Illinois College an 18-14 lead.
Lakeland was unable to respond on their next possession, but they took the ball with 5:13 left in the third quarter thanks to an interception by Justin McMahon in the end zone that enabled his team to take the lead for good. Nunnery got the drive going with a 40-yard completion to Kolby Cohen down to the Illinois College 40. After three straight incompletions, Nunnery found Prunick for a 12-yard completion and another first down. Two plays later the team faced a third and 4 at the Blueboys 22. This is when Rivers delivered, bursting up the middle for 18 yards down to the 4-yard line. Three plays later, Nunnery found Cohen for his second town toss of the game and the Muskies had a 21-18 lead.
From there, it was all about the Lakeland defense. Following the interception, the Muskies defense forced a turnover on downs and three punts, allowing 38 yards over the final four possessions. The Lakeland defense recorded six sacks, led by Otis Watts with two. Trevion Smith led with eight tackles. Rayshon Brumfield had an interception and to pass breakups.
The Muskies offense added one more score. After the defense forced a punt that gave the ball to Lakeland at the Illinois College 40, Nunnery raced up the middle for 28 yards down to the 12. Four plays later, on fourth and 1 at the three, the Lakeland quarterback kept the ball, rushing up the middle for the score to make it 28-18. That would be the final.
On offense, Rivers rush for 177 yards on just 25 carries, averaging 7.1 yards per carry. Nunnery added 74 yards on the ground and completed 10 of 34 attempts for 159 yards and two scores. Prunick was the leading receiver, making three catches for 80 yards and a touchdown.
The Illinois College offense was led by Chance, who completed 15 of 29 passes for 143 yards and a TD. Smalls rushed for 91 yards on 15 carries.
Lakeland University (1-0) will travel to Indiana next week to take on the Anderson University Ravens. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:30.
By Robert Pannier