Walled Lake Western's Kyle Bambard had two touchdowns and kicked two field goals in a 44-35 victory over Walled Lake Northern. (Todd McInturf / The Detroit News)
Walled Lake — Good teams become better teams gradually, from one week to another, from one half to another.
Walled Lake Western is one such team. Ranked in the top 20 in the preseason, Western is 4-0 after defeating Walled Lake Northern, 44-35, on Friday. Northern (2-2) is the defending Kensington Lakes Activities Association North Division champion and it defeated Western, 17-10, last season.
Western trailed 14-3 at halftime and coach Mike Zdebski’s team did not play like a team thought to be among the state’s best.
“We’d hit a big play then get a penalty,” Zdebski said. “And it happened too often.
“In the second half we played good defense, they made adjustments, then we re-adjusted. (Quarterback) Kyle (Bambard) didn’t have a super game in the first half, but what was nice is he didn’t get down on himself.”
Two big plays helped ignite the comeback. Trailing 28-17 Western linebacker John Simmons intercepted a pitchout and ran 20 yards for a touchdown with 10 seconds left in the third quarter.
“John read his key and went after it,” Zdebski said. “It gave us the energy we were missing.”
Then with three minutes left Bambard’s 47-yard field goal gave Western a 37-35 lead.
“There’s always room for improvement but I like where we’re at,” Zdebski said. “The kids are not full of themselves. They pay attention to detail.”
Twice Rochester Hills Stoney Creek has made the playoffs, but no victory in the school’s 12-year history matches the one it earned on Saturday. Stoney Creek (4-0) whipped host Lake Orion (3-1), 36-7. Other than to Clarkston, Lake Orion hadn’t lost an Oakland Activities Association Red Division game since 2007, when it lost to Troy.
“I thought we could play with them,” Stoney Creek coach Brad Zube said. “They love to run to the perimeter so we set up a hard edge. Joe Cox, our strong safety, is a great high school player and we put him on the edge. I don’t know if it’s the school’s biggest win. It’s just my second year.”
Linebacker Andrew Price had four sacks and Alex Schnurr kicked three field goals.
Lake Orion defeated Stoney Creek, 42-7, last season.
There was something in the cool crisp air on Saturday night that just didn’t seem right. Unranked Warren DeLaSalle (2-2) outplayed Birmingham Brother Rice (4-0) throughout most of the game, yet lost. Alex Malzone’s 34-yard touchdown pass to Jason Alessi on the last play of the game allowed the state’s No. 2-ranked team to slip out of Berkley with a 26-24 victory.
Two interference penalties aided Brother Rice’s 80-yard touchdown drive that gave it a 20-17 lead with 4:15 left. On the play previous to Alessi’s winning touchdown reception, Malzone threw a pass into the ground to avoid a sack. Officials ruled it was not intentional grounding, merely an incomplete pass.
“I was just trying to get rid of it,” Malzone said.
Receiver Drake Harris, the state’s top player from Grand Rapids Christian, could make his season debut on Friday at home against East Grand Rapids.
Harris suffered a hamstring injury in the preseason scrimmage on Aug. 22.
Christian coach Don Fellows said a decision might come late tonight or possibly as late as Thursday.
“If you would have asked me a week ago, I’d have said yes,” Fellows said. “We’re 3-1. We’re not going to play him until he’s 100 percent. He’s progressing but he hasn’t practiced at all. He’ll jog (today). We might know (tonight).”
At long last
The wait for Dearborn Heights Star International is over.
The program got its start in 2005 and it’s been credited with two victories, both by forfeit. On Friday, Star International earned its first victory on the field by defeating Hamtramck, 50-16.
“We had five different guys score touchdowns,” coach Ben Coughlin said. “But the best part was on the field afterward. It was one big pile of celebration.
“It’s our first legitimate win.”
Forfeits aside, Stat International was 0-71 before its convincing victory.
Games are lasting entirely too long and it’s time for a rule change. The Walled Lake Western-Walled Lake Northern game lasted three hours and 15 minutes. It took three hours for Oak Park and Southfield to play their game on Friday. Two weeks ago, Sturgis and Niles played 3:22. None of these games went to overtime.
Twenty years ago, the play clock would start when the ball was put in play to start each possession. Now, it doesn’t start until the ball is snapped. It’s time to go back. Injuries are often a byproduct of fatigue and the longer a game lasts only adds to the chance of injury.
In 2008 the NCAA was proactive regarding the length of its games. The NCAA Football Rules Committee instituted a rule by which the game clock stops when a player goes out of bounds but then restarts when the ball is marked ready for play by the referee. The new rule is not applied in the final two minutes of each half. It is estimated that 14 minutes, on average, was trimmed from each game.
By the numbers
28: Accepted penalties in the Oak Park-Southfield game
40-10: Combined non-league record of the 16 Detroit Catholic League teams
46: Ithaca’s current winning streak, tied for first nationally with Iowa City Regina (Iowa).
“We had some back luck and bad coaching last year. I have 27 seniors and they’re playing desperate. The juniors are polar opposite. They’re goofy.”
Brendan Flaherty, Birmingham Groves coach, on his team’s 4-0 start after finishing 2-7 last season.
Kyle Bambard, Walled Lake Western senior quarterback/kicker
Bambard passed for 285 yards and one touchdown, ran for 105 yards and one touchdown and kicked two field goals in Western’s 44-35 victory over Walled Lake Northern.