July 16 • 07:35 PM

Lions come up big down the stretch, winning it 22-21

Lapeer County Lions’ quarterback Justin Sortor, an Imlay City High School graduate, tries to elude a Detroit Diesel defender in Saturday’s encounter. photo by Kevin Kissane.

June 18, 2008
TRI-CITY AREA — The Lapeer County Lions took advantage of a touchdown toss, a successful PAT pass collaboration and an interception during the final 1:01 of play to pull out a 22-21 victory over the visiting Detroit Diesels in a North American Football League preseason matchup last Saturday night.

Almont High School is where the action unfolded.

With the decision, the Lapeer County Lions improve their preseason mark to 2-0.

Trailing 21-14 with 5:00 left, the Lapeer County Lions began what would prove to be their game-winning drive.

Aided by a costly interference call along the way, the Lapeer County Lions advanced the ball all the way to the Detroit four-yard line.

It was there Justin Sortor (Imlay City) hit Ken McNeil (Brandon) in stride for a touchdown pass, closing his team's deficit to 21-20 at the time.

Rather than go for a tie, the Lapeer County Lions opted to go for a two-point conversion.

That gamble would soon pay off as Sortor hit David Grapentin (Imlay City) for a completion, staking the Lapeer County Lions to a 22-21 edge. There was now 51 seconds remaining.

The only question was whether or not the Lapeer County Lions could hold on.

The Detroit Diesels' offense dug in next, hoping to acquire the go-ahead score.

A few plays later, Detroit quarterback Brandon Fender dropped back to pass. Fender directed a throw down the field, but its outcome was not what he had envisioned.

That is because the Lapeer County Lions' Kenny Yelle (Lapeer West) stepped into the path of the toss, caught it and ran out of bounds with 14 ticks remaining.

He was promptly surrounded by a host of Lapeer County Lions on the sidelines, all willing to be the first to congratulate him on a job well done.

The Lapeer County Lions then ran off the last few seconds, assuring themselves of the come-from-behind victory.

In Saturday's contest, the Lapeer County Lions reached the scoreboard first.

That happened when Cody Halasz (Cass City) delivered a six-yard touchdown run with 3:41 to play during quarter number one.

The Lapeer County Lions then tried to widen the gap via an extra-point kick. However, the effort failed to connect and their lead remained at 6-0.

Just 4:50 later, the Detroit Diesels would even the scoreboard count at six points per side when Fender hit Andy Hess with a 10-yard touchdown pass. Hess then split the uprights with an accurate extra-point boot, giving his team a 7-6 edge with 13:51 to play during quarter number two.

That scoreboard count would stay the same at the halftime break.

When the action resumed, the Lapeer County Lions bounced back with a Chance Garner (Flint Central) to McNeil pass play encompassing 10 yards of territory.

The subsequent PAT bid, a pass, fell incomplete.

That left the Lapeer County Lions holding a 12-7 lead with 3:00 showing on the third quarter clock.

The Lapeer County Lions then widened the gap to 14-7, thanks to a safety courtesy of Rob Purgatori (Rochester). His tally came nine seconds in to quarter number four.

Down but not out, the Detroit Diesels responded to the challenge presented them with 13 straight points.

That productive stretch saw Detroit collect a Kevin Rogers to Venselle Russell 89-yard touchdown pass and Fender hit Russell with a 96-yard touchdown toss (followed by a Fender to Russell) PAT pass. Those tallies came with 8:56 and 5:00, respectively, remaining during quarter number four.

That made it 21-14, Detroit Diesels, at the time.

The last five minutes, though, would belong to the Lapeer County Lions. It was there the hosts came through time and time again, good enough to secure a 22-21 win at night's end.

On the evening, Sortor proved the busiest member of the Lapeer County Lions quarterback rotation. He wound up eight of 16 for 71 yards.

McNeil (six catches for 61 yards) and Imlay City's Brad Jackman (five receptions for 41 yards) were the targets the Lapeer County Lions' quarterbacks sought out most often.

Halasz (93 yards on 22 carries) notched the rushing output for the Lapeer County Lions.

From a defensive standpoint, Imlay City's Angel Pizzaro (four solos and eight assisted stops) paced the Lapeer County Lions. Capac's Justin Gavlinski (five solos and three assisted tackles) along with Davison's Jeff Tody and Rochester's Rob Purgatori (four solos and two assists apiece) supported his performance.

The Lapeer County Lions return to action this Saturday when they entertain the Flint Fury at Almont High School. That matchup, a preason contest, lists a 7 p.m. starting time.

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