Lansing showed Friday that flashy offense can't always trump turnovers, poor defense and leaky special teams.
It was a cocktail of the three that put the Lions in a 24-point hole at halftime.
They stormed back in the second half, cutting Piper's lead down to 10 with nine minutes remaining, but that was as close as it would get.
Following Khalil Bailey's fifth touchdown catch that made it 50-40, Piper embarked on a penalty-extending six-minute touchdown drive to bring it to a 16-point game.
Lansing then gave it up on downs on a last-gasp drive that would've required a score, a successful onside kick, another score, plus two two-point conversions just to tie.
Piper went on to win 56-40.
“This is going to be a huge turning point for us [one way or the other],” said Lansing head coach Bill Pekarek. “Our guys have to suck it up and people need to start producing. We didn't have a good practice Wednesday and you've got to come ready to play every time out.”
Lansing spotted Piper two first-half touchdowns on Krystian Abbott interceptions. Both were on underneath routes that Piper's defense jumped. Both were returned for touchdowns.
The Lions were able to fix their offense by cutting out that part of the playbook and relying even more on Bailey, who had a career day and continues to top himself every week.
Bailey finished with 247 yards and 5 touchdowns on seven receptions.
Following the two early turnovers, Lansing scored touchdowns on five of their next six possessions.
It would've been enough to come back had the Lions defense stopped a team that was averaging less than a touchdown of offense per game coming in.
Piper ran between the tackles repeatedly with a thunder and lightning combo of fullback Colton Beebe and Sterling Owens, with Travon Jones mixed in occasionally.
Lansing got them into multiple third and fourth down situations, but couldn't get the big stop.
The morale-crushing part of it was that Lansing should've gotten stops on Piper's final two drives.
On their penultimate possession, with Lansing down 12, Piper faked a field goal on fourth down.
Lansing saw it coming all the way and was in position, but the ball went through the hands of a Lions special teams player and into the arms of Piper. They'd score two plays later.
On the next drive, the defense brought quarterback Tanner Eikenbary to the ground on fourth down, but it was wiped away by a facemask penalty that took Piper to the doorstep of the end zone and the win.
Lansing stopped the Pirates on just one drive in the second half.
Page 2 of 2 - “We had a million yards in penalties, and you can't do that,” Pekarek said. “On defense, we've got to do a better job at filling the gaps that we're responsible for and making tackles. When they have someone to block, we've got to get off the block and make the play.”
Special teams didn't do the defense any favors by allowing Piper to start in their territory on virtually every kickoff.
Lansing has allowed point totals of 58, 70, 26, 8 and 56 this year.
Even with the best player in the Kaw Valley on offense, that's apparently too much to raise the Lions above the middle of the pack.
- Quinton McQuillan left in the fourth quarter with a leg injury.
He was on the field for a few minutes before being helped off.
After the game, he was assisted to the bus by teammates. Coach Pekarek speculated that the freshman tailback might have broken a bone.
- Starting one hour early was just enough time to get the game in before the lightning and wind picked up.
The weather was being tracked by a lightning detector in the PA booth, and didn't get much closer than 20 miles away during game time.
Piper: Tanner Eikenbary rush, 7-0 Piper
Piper: Sean Pahls 55-yard interception return, XP good, 11:49, 14-0 Piper
Lansing: Khalil Bailey 20-yard catch, XP good, 8:33, 14-7 Piper
Piper: Sterling Owens 2-yard rush, XP good, 6:52, 21-7 Piper
Piper: Maverek Dearinger 35-yard interception return, 2-point conversion good, 6:29, 28-7 Piper
Lansing: Khalil Bailey 40-yard catch, XP no good, 3:15, 29-13 Piper
Piper: 2-yard rushing touchdown, 2-point conversion good, 1:33, 37-13 Piper
Lansing: Khalil Bailey 25-yard catch, XP no good, 9:20, 37-19 Piper
Piper: Colton Beebe 4-yard rush, XP good, 5:02, 44-19 Piper
Lansing: Khalil Bailey 80-yard catch, 2-point conversion no good, 4:50, 44-25 Piper
Lansing: Colin McQuillan 37-yard catch, XP good, 2:28, 44-32 Piper
Piper: Sterling Owens 1-yard rush, 2-point conversion no good, 9:31, 50-32 Piper
Lansing: Khalil Bailey 32-yard catch, 2-point conversion good, 9:04, 50-40 Piper
Piper: Colton Beebe 3-yard run, XP no good, 3:16, 56-40 Piper