ORCHARD LAKE — For all of the visible changes and peculiarities that came with the return of high school football Thursday, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s was as recognizable as ever in grounding out four rushing touchdowns to capture a 28-7 win over Walled Lake Western.
Eaglets coach George Porritt admitted his team was only “sort of” prepared given the abbreviated run-up to the start of the season, but the performance was enough to dispatch the Warriors, a Division 2 semifinalist from a year ago.
“It’s different. We’re doing different things and, I don’t know, sometimes you just wonder what the heck we are doing,” Porritt said of playing games in the COVID-19 era. “The kids adapted and you’ve got to deal with adverse conditions. We’re out here playing football, the game these kids love.”
Deadlocked 7-7 at halftime, St. Mary’s began the third quarter with a bang when junior Tommy Bauss broke off a 37-yard touchdown run by getting to the perimeter and winning a foot race to the pylon. The score was the second of the night for Bauss, who got things started with an 8-yard run in the first quarter and exceeded 140 yards on the ground.
“It was an outstanding performance. That’s what I expect out of him,” Porritt said of his leading rusher. “He’s a tough back and he broke the first tackles and got extra yards.”
St. Mary’s tacked on 14 more points in the second half from a pair of short touchdown runs by senior Lance Hillie.
“It was a nice second half. We did what we’re good at with running the ball and with our defense the second half,” Porritt said. “I’m very pleased with Bauss running the ball and the offensive line.”
Throughout the game, the Eaglets’ defense applied consistent pressure on Western’s standout quarterback Zach Trainor. The Warriors’ short passing game was at times effective, but lacked the big-play capability it displayed all of last season.
“That’s an outstanding quarterback and they’ve got good receivers. Our (pass rush) pressure was big,” Porritt said.
The Eaglets scored 14 points off of turnovers with junior Charles Collins’ early fumble recovery and junior Raid Zerki's third-quarter interception helping to set the table.
Western’s lone touchdown came on an 8-yard pass from Trainor to junior Thomas Young that tied the game.
The two programs met in Week 4 last season, producing a memorable 38-35 shootout and Eaglets victory that marked the Warriors’ only regular season loss.
Mike Weiskopf took over as head coach for Western in the offseason after the departure of Alex Grignon, who took an assistant job in the college ranks at Michigan Tech.
St. Mary’s will face Warren De La Salle next Friday at Wayne State University, while Western will be on the road at Waterford Mott in Week 2.
“We got through the first game and we’ll see if we can get better for the next one,” Porritt said.