DETROIT >> Walled Lake Western showed off a new cast of characters on the football field Thursday down at Wayne State University in the opener of the annual Prep Kickoff Classic and the fresh faces made quite the first impression.
Brand new Warriors quarterback Sam Johnson looked composed and comfortable in the pocket throughout and ran for two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 2:15 left to lead Western to a 19-14 defeat of a highly-hyped West Bloomfield squad.
Western (1-0) advanced to the Division 2 state finals last year. Johnson, a 6-foot-3 junior, landed with the Warriors back in the winter in a transfer from Southfield A&T.
“This was huge, this feels great,” long-time Western head coach Mike Zdebski said. “It’s always great to beat a team you’re not supposed to. I guess we’re pretty darn good ourselves.”
The Oakland Press had West Bloomfield as the No. 1 team in the county in its preseason rankings, while Western came in at No. 6.
“I’m not making excuses, we played a very good team today, don’t be fooled (because they lost some talent from last year), they still have a lot of guys that played in the state championship game left,” West Bloomfield head coach Ron Bellamy said. “We’ve got to get better. It’s on me as the coach to get this corrected. I’m not going to let this happen again.”
Loaded with college recruits on both sides of the ball, West Bloomfield (0-1) missed a short field goal to start the fourth quarter.
The Lakers’ offense had multiple shots at the end zone in the game’s final seconds from within 35 yards to no avail.
The contest was tied 7-7 at the half. West Bloomfield jumped in front 14-13 at the 4:59 mark of the third frame on senior quarterback Bryce Veasley’s 3-yard scoring scramble. He had a 50-yard rumble into the red zone on the previous play.
Veasley is committed to Bowling Green. Johnson and Veasley ran in a touchdown apiece in the first half. In addition to his pair of touchdowns on the ground, Johnson completed 17-of-30 passes for 230 yards.
Western junior placekicker Aidan Jennings booted two second half field goals from 25 and 32 yards, respectively. Senior linebacker Zak Kempster collected 10 tackles and a fumble recovery to pace the Warriors’ defensive effort. Jalon Oden got his fingertips on West Bloomfield’s fourth quarter field goal attempt.
West Bloomfield will kick off league action out of the OAA Red in Week 2 against Bloomfield Hills. Western gets its Lakes Valley Conference schedule under way next week. The 2017 campaign is the inaugural season for the Lakes Valley, a breakoff from the Kensington Lakes Activities Association where Western was the four-time defending league champion from the Northern Division.