The weather would seem to favor Washingto’s power running game. But weather didn’t trump Lansing’s talent and coaching.
So while a cold, soggy football put a few hiccups in the Lions’ offensive attack Friday, Lansing figured things out and pulled away with a 40-18 win.
A win next week against Schlagle will punch their ticket to the playoffs, which start the first week of November.
The turning point Friday came mid-way through the third quarter, after a water-logged pigskin sailed on quarterback Krystian Abbott and found the hands of Washington’s Deron Kirkwood, who returned the interception for a score and cut Lansing’s lead to 20-12.
Following the turnover, Lansing’s third through the air, head coach Bill Pekarek turned more conservative, opting to run first and pass second.
It paid immediate dividends. After Khalil Bailey took the kickoff all the way down to Washington’s 20-yard line, junior running back Colin McQuillan took the first-down handoff outside the left tackle for a score.
From that point, McQuillan chewed up yards running to the outside.
Lansing also stopped turning it over, and for maybe the first time this year the run set up the pass.
McQuillan carried it 17 times for 154 yards and two touchdowns.
“We decided to run it more outside (in the second half), and McQuillan bounced out there and had success,” Pekarek said. “Their right defensive side might’ve been their weaker side (so we decided to run it to our left more).”
The lone touchdown Lansing would allow going forward came in mop-up time on the final play of the game.
Lansing’s defensive unit had its best performance this season, limiting Washington to a 3-for-12 third down coversion rate, and 0-for-3 on fourth downs.
Many of those conversion attempts came in short-yardage situations.
“We figured if we could stop their run, we would make them throw,” said senior middle linebacker Hector Porter.
Washington never mounted an air threat, allowing the Lions to hone in and stuff the Wildcats at the line of scrimmage.
Lansing struck for the first two scores, the first on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Abbott to Kenneth Banks on 4th and long.
For their second score, Lansing ran a wide receiver screen to Khalil Bailey, who took it 41-yards for his metro-leading 14th touchdown.
He would score another in the fourth quarter on a long ball from Abbott.
Bailey finished with six receptions for 171 yards and two touchdowns, with a lost fumble on a punt return.
Abbott went 13-25 for 294 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.
Lansing took a 20-6 lead to halftime. The interception touchdown return early in the third made it a one-score game, but Lansing responded with McQuillan’s quick strike two plays later, and never looked back.