Hornets make goal line stand to win playoff game

Published 9:55 pm Friday, November 3, 2023

LOYD STAR — It has been nearly 14 years since the last playoff win for the Loyd Star Hornets and the streak was not easy to snap Friday night. A goal line stand with 37 seconds on the play clock took everything the Hornets had to come away with a 21-20 win over Lake to advance in the MHSAA 2A playoffs. 

It was a tense final drive loaded with penalties, momentum shifts and discussions of what constitutes an intentional grounding as Lake spiked the ball to kill the clock out of shotgun several times. Two field goal attempts were blocked, each negated by penalties of offsides. 

Lake strung a wide run play to the right hand side and came up inches short of the end zone. Cooper Creel had held up the running back just long enough for the Lake player to drop the football on the turf and out of the end zone for a touchback. Senior defensive lineman Michael Smith said he was focused on doing his job on the play. 

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“I was blitzing so all I saw was green and bodies but I knew what had happened when I heard the crowd roar,” Smith said. “We did our job today. It is just one of the best moments in my life to go to a playoff game and win. I have been on a team that has lost in the front round.”

Loyd Star led for much of the game. Freshman Jordyn Kees scored the first touchdown on an eight yard rush up the middle of the field. Lake would respond with a 70 yard touchdown rush but could not convert the two point conversion and trailed 7-6 with 4:21 in the first quarter. 

Smith made a huge play in the second quarter following a series of turnovers by Loyd Star and Lake. He hustled to pounce on a fumble in the end zone to give the Hornets a 13-6 lead with 7:35 left in the second quarter. 

“For me it was just a team effort tonight. I feel like we played as a team I just happened to make the play and jump on the ball,” Smith said.

Lake would score on a 35 yard touchdown pass two minutes before halftime but failed to convert the two point conversion and trailed 13-12 going into half. Senior Braxton Williams looked to put the Hornets on the front foot after halftime as he recovered a fumble on kickoff coverage. Loyd Star was unable to do anything with the turnover offensively. 

Lake took its first lead of the ball game on a 58 yard rush up the middle and converted the two point conversion to go up 20-13 with 7:04 left in the third quarter. 

Nearly 12 minutes later, Loyd Star regained the lead on a 60 yard completion from Kees to junior Omarion Clay. Creel punched in the two point conversion. It was the most explosive play of the night for the Hornets. 

The goal line stand at the end of the game was an example of the Loyd Star defense Friday night. They made big plays and gave them every chance to win. It was fitting the defense ultimately won the ball game. 

“We had to end it in a way like that on defense. It was all I could wish for,” Smith said. “My mind focused on doing my job. Be aggressive, breakdown and make tackles. Between snaps, I couldn’t help but think about being a senior.” 

Smith said he plans to attend Co-Lin and go through the lineman’s program and make a career out of that. Loyd Star’s season is not over yet as they advance to the second round of the playoffs and improve to a 10-1 record.