LAKE ORION — Dakota High School ended its playoff run Friday, falling to Lake Orion 51-35 in the MHSAA Division 1 football quarter-final.
The Dragons lead scoring in the first half and entered halftime with a 31-7 lead. While the Cougars answered with double touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters, the team was unable to break the Dragons' momentum.
Dakota will finish its season 10-2.
The star: Dragons senior tailback Jacob Miller stood up when he was most needed and ran past the ghosts of Lake Orion football past — which had lost three times in the playoffs at the hands of Dakota since 2004. Miller scored three second-quarter touchdowns, including a spectacular run up the middle for a 69-yard touchdown, and accumulated 224 yards on the ground in 27 carries.
Lake Orion's defensive line seemed to have Cougars senior quarterback Richmon Render on the run for most of the night and on his back for the rest of it. Render still completed 22-of-35 attempts and scored two passing touchdowns.
The turning point: Dakota scored on three straight possessions in the second and third quarters after spotting the Dragons 24 points early on. Cougars senior running back Nick Cattaneo had punched in the most recent touchdown from the two yard-line to bring the score to 38-21 with 1:38 left in the third quarter. However, Lake Orion continued an efficient offense. Junior split back Corey Ester ran a touchdown from 19 yards early in the fourth quarter, pushing the score to 45-21 and effectively pushing the game out of reach.
The quote: "Their defense is good, but we were out of sync … it's the big show. Sometimes, the lights shine down a little too bright for some guys. They caught on after a while, but a little too late." — Dakota head coach Mike Giannone
What's next? Lake Orion will hit the road to take on Detroit Cass Tech in the MHSAA Div. 1 regional semifinal round next week. It will mark the first time the two teams have played since the 2010 regional semifinal game, which the Dragons won by three points.
Friday night's loss marked the third time in the past four years that Dakota was eliminated in the regional quarterfinal round.
Bottom line: After a season-opening loss to Dearborn Fordson, Dakota seemed to click on all cylinders and ripped off a 10-game winning streak which would make a fan of just about anyone. The Cougars' persistence on Friday night is not likely to be forgotten soon and fans will be sure to gear up next season for another playoff-caliber team to watch.
Meanwhile, Lake Orion proved with the win that a size disadvantage would not determine its fate, provided that its speedy running backs could get beyond the line of scrimmage. The Dragons will take on the Technicians with dreams of getting back to the peak of the 2010 season, which was the team's first championship game. If this game is any indication, expect Lake Orion to come out of the gate like a cannonball.