LAKEVIEW — The Lakeview Wildcats needed to win one final game to secure a spot in the Michigan High School Athletics Association (MHSAA) football playoffs.
For a little more than 30 minutes, it looked like the Wildcats were on their way to doing so. In the end, the Big Rapids Cardinals (8-1) made the plays and defeated the Wildcats 28-14 in the regular season finale on Friday night at Kos Field.
“I thought we dominated the first part of the game with the offensive line,” Lakeview coach Guenther Mittelstaedt said. “We kept plugging away until we scored. Everything was going our way then.”
On their second possession, the Wildcats, starting with good field position, capped a 40-yard drive on a one-yard touchdown run by senior Jared Taylor. Brad Hamlin made a diving catch for a two-point conversion and an 8-0 lead.
Big Rapids didn’t take long to respond. Junior Eric Boyd returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. The two-point attempt failed, however, allowing the Wildcats to cling to an 8-6 advantage.
“We tried to kick away from No. 23 (Boyd). The guy we tried to kick it to missed it and it went right to 23,” Mittelstaedt said. “He is their best return man. We didn’t want him to have it.”
Trailing by two to start the second half, Big Rapids started with another big special teams play. Nick Baldwin returned the opening kickoff 51 yards to the Wildcats’ 10-yard line to set up a Cardinals score.
Boyd’s seven-yard catch and a two-point conversion by Jon Spicer gave the Cardinals a 14-8 lead.
Lakeview’s offensive struggles carried over from the first half to the second. The Wildcats punted on their next possession and the Cardinals’ offense was able to eat more than four minutes off the clock to put the game out of reach.
With 4:08 left in the third quarter, quarterback Ty Lattimore’s score gave Big Rapids a 20-8 lead.
“The biggest thing we needed to move the ball a little more on offense and I think they wore our defense down a little bit,” Mittelstaedt said. “Their size finally got to us a little. The whole story was the power of their line. Their offensive line did a good job.”
Baldwin scored one more touchdown and Spicer added another two-point conversion with 3:37 remaining to give Big Rapids a 28-8 lead.
Taylor scored his second touchdown of the game for Lakeview with just 1:03 remaining in the game.
The Wildcats finished the season 5-4 overall and more than likely will miss the playoffs.
“I was definitely very proud of them. Our seniors were happy this was their only winning record on varsity,” Mittelstaedt said. “I think we got better this year. We had some good senior leadership and some very dedicated football players at Lakeview.”
Taylor finished with 136 yards on 17 carries. Garrett Cavendish added 58 yards on 11 carries.
John Zuluaga-Torres had an interception for Lakeview and Gus Ward recovered a fumble. Terry Greiser and Cory Hamlin each had 10 tackles.