Two-time defending Division 3 state champ Orchard Lake St. Mary’s was making another one of its comebacks.
The Eaglets had cut Macomb Dakota’s lead to seven points and recovered a fumble on Dakota’s 13-yard line with 2:55 left to play.
But on second down, Dakota defensive back Colin Macklem came flying out of the secondary up to the line of scrimmage.
“I read my key and the hole was open,” he said. “I saw the running back coming through and I stuck my head in there and hit the ball as hard as I could.”
Macklem forced a fumble, that teammate Chris Magee recovered and Dakota opened the season Thursday night with a stirring, 35-28 victory at home.
It was the perfect opening for first-year head coach Greg Baur and it wasn’t too shabby for senior quarterback Brett Droski and senior receiver Jaylen Hall.
Droski completed 10 of 15 passes for 245 yards and four touchdowns.
“We had the whole set up where we were going to throw passes and throw passes,” he said. “It was based on reads.”
Give Droski an “A” in reading. He was especially effective reading the location of Hall, who caught three passes, which all went for touchdowns of 29, 52 and 74 yards.
“He’s unbelievable,” Droski said. “He did everything he could. It was awesome how well he played. He’s 6-4 and he can run. If I’m in trouble I throw it up and he’ll run and get it. It makes my job a lot easier.”
Hall is an amazing athlete and his job was made easier by Droski, who put the ball on the money on all three of the TD passes.
“I just tried the best I could to get open and Brett found me on some great reads and our offensive line gave us enough time complete the plays,” Hall said. “That was a great job by our quarterback, he got me in stride.”
St. Mary’s was led by RaShawn Allen, who ran for 157 yards and 35-yard run made it a seven-point game midway through the fourth quarter.
A couple of minutes earlier, Evan Sivec had given the Cougars a 14-point lead when he returned a St. Mary’s punt 75 yards for a score.
“I just had a whole bunch of great blocks,” he said. “I give it up to Cade (Lawitzke). If he wasn’t there to help me down the sideline, I wouldn’t have scored. I saw green, but I saw a whole bunch of great blocks.”
Allen gave St. Mary’s a 7-0 lead on a 10-yard run, but the Cougars answered with Droski rolling out of a sack and firing a 29-yard strike to Hall.
But on the very next play from scrimmage, fullback Kyren Cunningham took a handoff 80 yards up the gut for a 14-7 St. Mary’s lead.
Droski needed only three plays to cap a 62-yard drive with a perfect 52-yard TD pass to Hall to tie the score with 1:45 left in the first quarter.
Nick Carl recovered a St. Mary’s fumble at Dakota’s 42. A couple of good runs by Kaiser Carleton set up Droski’s third TD pass of the game, a 4-yarder to Sivec to give the Cougars a 21-14 halftime lead.
Carl came up with a key stop on a fourth-and-2 play and Dakota took over at its 26-yard line. On first down Droski lofted a bomb to Hall, who caught it in stride and turned it into a 76-yard TD and a 28-14 lead.
The Eaglets made it a one-score game three plays later after Cunningham caught a short pass, eluded a tackler, and sprinted 54 yards midway through the third quarter.
Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.