Aiden Jennings’ leg proved to be the difference for Walled Lake Western Thursday night, as it escaped a defensive battle with White Lake Lakeland, 13-11, in Lakes Valley conference play.
After Sam Johnson found Justin Thomas for a touchdown on the opening drive to put Western (5-1, 4-2) up 7-0, Jennings stepped in.
The junior kicker hit two first-quarter field goals of 36 and 40 yards to stretch the advantage to 13-0, giving Western’s stout defense just enough cushion to hang on for the victory.
“It’s a game-changer to have a guy like that,” Western coach Mike Zdebski said. “We’ve been blessed with kickers for a long time. When you can kick, it allows you to win a lot of games.”
Lakeland (4-1, 3-2) got on the board when Western snapped the ball through the back of the end zone on a punt formation in the second quarter.
After cutting the Western lead to 13-8 at the half, Lakeland added a field goal on a drive that lasted more than seven minutes.
That was a win for Zdebski’s team.
“We played as good a defensive game as we’ve played in a few years,” he said. “They’ve been putting up a lot of points. They had 21 plays of 50 yards or more coming into this game. We were able to prevent the big play today. We just didn’t want to give up the home run.”
Western only ran nine offensive plays in the second half, as the defense used a bend-but-don’t-break approach to hold on for the win.
Johnson finished 5-for-11 passing for 115 yards and a touchdown, and Thomas had two receptions for 59 yards and a score.