LAKIN — By all accounts, the Lakin football season has been a successful one—thus far.
The Broncs wrapped up the regular season at home with a 44-6 win over Syracuse to finish 2-1 in Class 3A district play.
Finishing second in the district means they get to continue their season Tuesday, traveling to Larned in bi-district action.
Lakin coach Chris Bamberger was happy with the win, but he knows his team has some work to do before facing Larned Tuesday.
“I want to be really excited, but this was kind of an ugly game,” he said. “But our chances are still there. We’re still alive; we get to play; we have practice (Friday), and we’re not checking in our gear.”
The Broncs (7-2) had two huge scoring plays called back by penalties in the first half, but fortunately that didn’t hurt as they eventually wore down and through the Syracuse defense on a cold and blustery evening.
Lakin relied on its running game to dominate the offensive side, rushing 47 times for 340 yards.
The defense held Syracuse to 128 total yards on 45 plays.
Clay Michel, who led Lakin with 151 rushing yards, scored the first of his three touchdowns with one second left in the first quarter on a 2-yard run.
On Lakin’s next possession, Michel broke through the line and scored from 45 yards out.
Lakin’s final score of the first half came on a short pass play to Khai Hernandez from Hunter Kirby, who completed all four of his pass attempts in the half.
Bamberger acknowledged that the flow wasn’t there in the first half, but his team was still in control.
“We just have to execute,” he said. “There were some situations where we shouldn’t even be. If we execute and take care of the ball, do the right things, it’s fun to watch. If we put the ball on the ground, it’s kind of ugly.”
It was more of the same in the third quarter as Dawsen Shalberg scored on a 45-yard run, atoning for an 84-yard run called back on a penalty in the first quarter.
The senior also had a 55-yard score negated by penalty in the second.
Kirby found receiver Juan Banuelos for a 25-yard score at 7:52 in the third to put the Broncs up 36-0.
Michel scored on an 18-yard play to give Lakin a 44-0 lead in the fourth, just not enough to get a running clock as the wind chill continued to dip into the upper 30s.
Syracuse got on the board late when Payson Hawkins scored from six yards out after Lakin fumbled the ball on its own 6-yard line, the fourth turnover on the ground for the Broncs in the game.
Syracuse fumbled the ball seven times, turning it over three times.
Penalties called back three long scores, and that’s another area Bamberger wants to see change — and soon.
“We’ve got to play cleaner football. We’ve got to take care of our business,” he said. “If we do that, we give ourselves a chance, but it’s tough to play behind the chains.”
While Lakin relies heavily on its running game, the fumbles in this game are more indicative of an issue plaguing the Broncs lately.
“It’s been the focus for us probably the last three or four weeks,” Bamberger said. “I think the more we talk about it, the worse it gets.”
For the third-year coach, extending the season to Tuesday is a step forward, but he’d like to see his team play into November.
“I’m not ready to turn it in,” he said. “I have a lot of fun every day after school. The more times we get to go to work, the happier I am.”