Lawrence pulls back to .500 on back of big defensive plays

Phil Roy

Lawrence took on Lake Forest last Saturday under a full moon and the lights at the Banta Bowl. The Pep Band made their first appearance of the season to add to the festive air.
Lawrence RB Aljay Wren managed to take the Vikings into Lake Forest territory three plays into the game, but an intercepted pass put an end to that drive.
The Vikings regained possession after a three-and-out by the Foresters and moved the chains twice before a holding penalty and a dropped pass forced the punt team onto the field.
The Foresters looked extremely threatening as the first quarter wound to a close, driving down the field on some big offensive plays. Lake Forest started the second quarter on Lawrence’s 18 but would lose the ball on the very first play of the period.
Viking linebacker Joe Austin popped the ball out of a Forester receiver’s hands after the catch was made, and roverback Billy Bodle grabbed the ball out of the air to prevent the Foresters from getting on the scoreboard.
The Viking offense remained unable to break through a tough Lake Forest defense, and would not enter the Forester red zone the entire half. A Lake Forest score, however, seemed more than probable when Viking kicker Kenny Alvord had a punt blocked and returned to the Lawrence 5-yard line with two minutes left in the quarter.
The Viking defense stuffed two rush attempts, forcing the Foresters to take the aerial route on third down. The pass was tipped by a receiver and then spectacularly caught by a diving Billy Bodle, bailing out the Vikings as the half drew to a scoreless close.
The Viking defense came up big, once again, in the third quarter. Sophomore DB Evan Neuens couldn’t have picked a more opportune time for his first career interception as he picked off QB Jeff Ziemnik’s pass at the end of Lake Forest’s first drive and returned it 39 yards.
Lawrence handed the ball off four times as Aljay Wren put up the first points of the game. The Vikings would extend the lead on their very next drive, on a play that was definitely one for the highlight reel.
Quarterback Nick Maxam connected with junior Dominique Lark on a short-pass play and Lark did the rest, shrugging off the Forester defense on his way into the end zone.
The 70-yard play was followed by an unsuccessful extra point attempt, putting the score at 13-0.
Lake Forest began putting together a promising drive at the end of the third quarter, making use of two big plays to reach the Vikings’ 20.
Joe Austin then created another big opportunity for the Vikings as he sacked Lake Forest’s quarterback, forcing a fumble that was picked up by freshman Brian Janssen, who ran the ball 70 yards and into the end zone.
The full moon seemed to be conspiring against kicker Kenny Alvord, however, as he missed another extra point, this one hitting an upright.
Lawrence’s defense forced a punt out off Lake Forest’s first drive of the final quarter and the Vikings put together a solid drive that led to a field goal.
The Foresters then made use of a 51-yard kick off return and a 23-yard pass play to finally put themselves on the scoreboard.
Lake Forest found themselves with the ball a few minutes later after backup QB Ron Jacques had a pass intercepted. The Foresters put the ball in the air 12 times on their next drive, completing four passes before another Viking sophomore, Nathan Braatz, had his first career interception.
Braatz picked off the pass in the end zone with under two minutes left in the contest, ending Lake Forest’s threat and giving the Vikings the 22-6 victory. The win pulls Lawrence back to .500 with four games left to play.
The Viking defense kept Lake Forest from converting on all three of their red zone chances, putting them at the top of league in red zone defense.
Lawrence’s next game is away at Knox. The Prairie Fire have a 2-4 record and the Vikings, who are 3-3 overall, will be looking to pull back to a .500 mark against conference opponents.
The Vikings will return home the following week for their Fall Festival match-up against Beloit.

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