St. Thomas Aquinas looked like the No. 1 seed in the eastern 5A bracket Friday. Lansing, in the first half, looked like the Chiefs.
It was 21-0 before some fans made it to their seats, and 43-0 at halftime. The Lions were able to break through in the second half with three scores en route to a 50-20 final. Their second half performance turned what was a never-speak-of-this-again game into something that, perhaps, Lansing can build on next year.
"Our kids were trying hard, and the team we played is pretty good," said Coach Pekarek. "Our kids kept fighting though, so that was good to see."
Turnovers, bad snaps, shoddy special teams, penalties, a leaky defense, and everything else that characterizes bad football were on full display from the Lions in the first half. But the Lions played much better in the second half, albeit against the Saints' second-stringers.
Lion sophomore Colin McQuillan had the final score on a catch in the back corner of the end zone with less than a minute left. Lucas Mein had the other two Lansing touchdowns, one on a deep go route and one on a run at the goal line. The senior's final game was his best of the season, a 178-yard performance on four catches.
"Lucas Mein played well for us all year, as a running back and defensive back. He did everything we needed him to do, and always had a great attitude," Pekarek said.
The team's leading rusher and receiver may not be able to help the 2013 Lions, but the guy who threw him the ball will. Quarterback Krysten Abbott had his best game of the year against a team that wasn't from Kansas City, Kansas. He bought time with his feet, hit receivers on the run, and threw a few deep balls that were impressive, even with the wind at his back.
"A lot of his problems this year have come from not getting protection," Pekarek said. "I think his arm will get stronger this offseason too."
Abbott finished the night 15-21 for 302 yards passing with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
With high school offenses becoming more and more pass happy, Abbott's youth has to be the single most encouraging thing for the Lions looking forward. The sophomore has two more years to improve under Pekarek's offense.
There will be holes all around him, though. The Lions will have to replace both starting cornerbacks on defense, and won't have a running back with varsity experience.
"Running back will be a little scarce. We may have to make some personnel shifts there," Pekarek said.
The Lions finish 2012 with a 1-6 league record after returning just a handful of starters from last year.
Page 2 of 2 - "It has definitely been the toughest year of my time here," Pekarek said. "We didn't play defense as well as we have been. We struggled a little more on offense [than usual]."
"We know we've got to get better."