West Bloomfield had 12 long months to get ready for Friday night’s game.
A year removed from coming off an undefeated season only to suffer a first round playoff loss to 5-4 Novi, the Lakers (6-4) passed on that empty feeling to previously-undefeated Bloomfield Hills, 31-14.
“Last year we learned we just need to work harder and focus on the main goal, and not get upset and keep the team first, and put yourself last,” senior tailback Davion Johnson said.
Johnson helped his team strike first, on a 14-yard scoring strike from quarterback Bryce Veasley four minutes into the game.
“For the last couple of games we had got off to a slow start, so when we got off to a fast one, we just took over the game and continued to keep rolling,” Johnson said.
“Coming out, we knew we wanted to score on the first drive because they had a high-powered offense just like us,” Veasley said. “We tried to get out athletes some space: Garrett Winn, Davion, Taj Mustapha and James Faulkner too.”
With all those targets available, Veasley — who played at the now-closed Southfield-Lathrup last year — completed 14 of 18 pass attempts for 122 yards in the first half, when the Lakers opened up a 21-7 lead.
Bloomfield Hills did knot the score at 7 late in the opening quarter — on a 63-yard scamper by Derek Lynch Jr. — but things turned south for the Black Hawks down the stretch of the first half.
First, a bad snap on a punt gave West Bloomfield the ball at the 2-yard line, and Johnson punched it in on the first play. Two plays later, Bloomfield Hills quarterback John Paddock left the game with an unspecified injury after being sacked, and the Black Hawks couldn’t get much going offensively after that until the fourth quarter, when they were behind by three scores.
Before that, though, the Lakers mounted another scoring drive, covering 52 yards in 9 plays, as Veasley scored on a 2-yard keeper to make it 21-7 with four minutes remaining in the first half. West Bloomfield later had a 40-yard touchdown called back due to a penalty.
In the second half, Nick O’Shea kicked a 35-yard field goal and Winn added a late touchdown on a 2-yard run.
Even though West Bloomfield plays in the Oakland Activities Association’s Red Division — two levels higher than Bloomfield Hills — Veasley still considered his team underdogs due to the Black Hawks’ record and home field advantage. With another win next week, West Bloomfield would capture its first district title in school history.
“It would mean a lot,” Johnson said. “We already got to the playoffs and we won our first playoff game, so we just need to win the districts and keep going for more.”
Meanwhile, Bloomfield Hills (9-1) bowed out with its best season since the merger of Andover and Lahser four years ago.
“It was a great season,” Lynch said. “We set a goal of going undefeated at the beginning of the season, and for us to do it, that’s something that can’t be taken from us. We’re going to celebrate that. It was a tough loss tonight, but we’re going to keep our heads up.”