Home > Walled Lake Western starts fast, survives late scare | USA Today High School Sports

Walled Lake Western starts fast, survives late scare | USA Today High School Sports

It wasn’t John Camilleri’s prettiest field goal, but then again, it wasn’t Walled Lake Western’s prettiest win, either.

John Camilleri, Walled Lake Western

John Camilleri, Walled Lake Western

The Warriors squandered a three-touchdown lead in the final quarter, but got the clutch kick from Camilleri with 54 seconds to play to defeat crosstown rival Walled Lake Northern, 34-31 and take the KLAA North Division title.

Kicking into a strong wind from 35 yards out, the ball sputtered and rotated but just got over the crossbar inside the left post.

“That one was sailing left. I was praying to God, ‘Don’t let it keep going left, let it get there,’ and He answered,” Camilleri said.

For most of the night, it was unthinkable the Warriors (6-0, 4-0 KLAA) would even need last-minute heroics.

“I thought we were going to run away with it too when we were up by 21 points,” Western coach Mike Zdebski said. “And we just told our guys keep everything in front of you and no big plays. But we give up a post and we fumble the ball and we give up another post, and next thing you know, it was tied up. But we have an All-State Dream Team kicker, and when we got close enough, we asked him to take the kick, and he said, ‘Yeah, I’m good.’”

Western started out on fire, scoring the first two touchdowns and building up a 174-16 offensive advantage in yards in the first quarter. Quarterback Kyle Thomas capped the opening 75-yard drive with 14-yard burst up the middle. But since Western’s offense isn’t one-dimensional, Thomas came right back on the next series and hit Jake Prokes going deep, covering 63 yards. Thomas hooked up with Prokes on the same play in the third quarter, this time covering 48 yards, to push the lead to 24-10.

Prokes later scored on an off-tackle run which went for 25 yards, as the Warriors increased the margin to 21 late in the third quarter.

However, Northern (4-2, 3-1) started the fourth period with some fireworks. Mike Nelson got behind the defensive back and hauled in a deep pass from Mike Towns, going for 70 yards. Then Western coughed up the ball on the ensuing kickoff and Joe Long recovered, giving the Knights a short field from the Western 23. Back-to-back penalties gave Northern first-and-goal from the 3, and Towns connected with Nelson again two plays later to bring the Knights within a touchdown, 31-24.

Next, Western then went four-and-out and Camilleri shanked a punt into the wind. Northern threw two incompletions but connected on the third to Adam Rabaut, covering 41 yards, to tie it up at 31 with 6:51 to play.

“We knew this would be a back-and-forth game, a tight game,” Zdebski said. “Even though we were up 21, they’ve always been a real good offensive team that does a nice job and their kids are very athletic. That was the team I thought would contend for the division. It was a nice win. They work really hard and hopefully they’ll make the playoffs too.”

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