Deer Lakes football settles down in rout of Apollo-Ridge

Friday, September 8, 2023 | 10:16 PM

After Apollo-Ridge went right down the field on its opening drive, it looked like Deer Lakes was in for a long night.

However, the Lancers (2-1) scored four unanswered touchdowns led by their ground attack as they raced to a 49-21 win over Apollo-Ridge in nonconference play at Owens Field on Friday night.

“I thought our guys played well. We had some mental lapses throughout the game. We got a little too comfortable,” Deer Lakes coach Tim Burk said.

“It’s a learning curve for us. We aren’t a program that traditionally wins every year so we need to learn how to win some games. We got a little complacent tonight and let some things happen. But we will fix that. We are learning, and we are getting better each week.”

Junior running back Zier Williams led the Lancers rushing attack with 193 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. Williams ripped off big runs on Deer Lakes’ second and third drives of the game.

The first came when he rushed down the left side for a 41-yard touchdown to respond quickly to Apollo-Ridge’s opening touchdown.

Williams started the Lancers’ third drive with a 32-yard run down right side. A few plays later, senior quarterback Derek Burk, who had four total touchdowns, called his own number out of the shotgun and ran it in from 5 yards to give the Lancers a 13-7 lead with 2 minutes, 32 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

Down by a score, the Vikings (1-2) stalled on offense as they dealt with back-to-back penalties that put them behind schedule and forced another punt.

“It’s the same thing every week,” Apollo-Ridge John Skiba said. “We made a lot of mental mistakes. We got a little bit better. The first drive was very good for us because it showed us things that we can do.

“We need to continue to grow and get better. I have 18 freshmen and five seniors on the roster. We are going in the right way.”

The Lancers took over at the Vikings 40-yard line with less than two minutes remaining in the first quarter. Deer Lakes took advantage of the short field with big runs by Williams and Burk.

The drive was capped by a Burk scramble that preceded a pass to junior receiver Nathaniel Moore in back corner of the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 21-7 with four seconds remaining in the opening quarter.

Apollo-Ridge tried to change things up on offense by using the hurry up, however the Lancers defense seemed to have an answer for everything. Its pressure forced Vikings senior quarterback Karter Schrock to float up a pass down the sideline that junior defensive back Zach Grant intercepted.

A few plays later, Burk ran it in from 3 yards to give the Lancers a 28-7 lead with about six minutes remaining in the half.

Schrock was held to 52 yards rushing in the first half, of which 45 yards came on two big runs on the opening drive. He finished that drive with a 5-yard touchdown run.

“He runs hard. He’s big. He’s a good athlete,” Burk said. “We knew we were going to get a heavy dose, but our defensive coaches did a good job game planning for him. He’s tough. I give a lot of credit to him. Our defensive guys showed up, and we played very well defensively.”

In the second half, the Lancers forced turnovers on back-to-back drives. Deer Lakes senior defensive lineman Lee Hengelsberg identified a screen developing and picked off the Schrock pass for a 21-yard touchdown return.

Deer Lakes sophomore Luca Mangieri then recovered a Vikings fumble, and few plays later he caught a 12-yard touchdown pass to give the Lancers a 42-7 lead in the third quarter.

The Vikings scored back-to-back to make it 42-21. Schrock found sophomore Jaden McCray for a 17-yard touchdown pass before Tyler Bartell grabbed a Williams fumble and returned it for a 31-yard score.

On the next Deer Lakes drive, Williams made up for the fumble by ripping off a couple big runs capped by a 28-yard touchdown run.

“He runs hard. He fumbled — so what?” Burk said. “I trust him. I know he’s going to come back and do well. That’s why I gave him the ball right away. I wanted to show him I believed in him. He’s our guy. If you want to drop nine dudes into coverage, we will run the ball. If you are going to come press the box, we will throw it. We have a good, well-balanced offense this year.”

The win for the Lancers builds off their 33-0 shutout of Burrell last week. Apollo-Ridge dropped its second game in a row after losing to Valley, 18-7, last week.

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