DETROIT — Any time you lose a big-time player to graduation, you bemoan how you’re going to possibly replace his production — right up until the moment his replacement does something to make you forget his predecessor.
Walled Lake Western will no doubt miss the departed Drew Viotto and Darius Taylor, but seniors Jaxon Lippert and Gavin Noonan certainly didn’t exhibit any drop-off in results in their first game filling those shoes.
Noonan ran for 221 yards and three touchdowns, and Lippert added a pair of scores, as the Warriors pounded out 390 yards on 50 carries, overwhelming Waterford Mott in a 42-27 win at the Xenith Prep Kickoff Classic at Wayne State on Thursday.
“Big time statement, 100 percent. Because everyone’s like, ‘Oh, who they got? Who they got now?’ I mean, we had me and Jaxon both had to come in to fill huge roles, coming in filling Drew Viotto’s role, Darius Taylor’s role,” Noonan said. “I mean, we came in and I think we did great today. I think we couldn’t have played better.”
The Warriors were relentless pounding the ball behind their big offensive line, moving the Corsairs off the line of scrimmage, chewing up clock, and keeping the ball in their own hands as much as possible.
“We just told our kids football isn’t about what play you run. Football isn’t about the talent that’s out there. Football is about who’s tougher physically and mentally. And we’re going to try to impose our physicality on people and we certainly did it today,” Western coach Kory Cioroch said. “I don’t care what plays we run. I care about how tough we are and how our kids execute what we do.”
And that was what made Mott coach Chris Fahr fume, that his defense couldn’t get a stop at all, let alone one or two key ones.
“They need to come up with a bunch of stops. Not one more stop. They were hot butter. They ran power and iso, right down the field,” Fahr said. “Just bad coaching, no tackling. That’s on us. We’re not going to win anything — I don’t care how good your offense is — not being able to stop a nosebleed. It’s soft players, soft coaching, bad coaching, and that’s what you get. Period.”
Mott’s offense did its part, as much as possible, getting the game back to a one-score affair, at 28-20, with 11 seconds left in the third quarter on the second of Kalieb Osborne’s three touchdown passes, a 55-yard catch and run by Donovan Isaac.
Osborne was 19 of 25 passing for 310 yards through the air, tossing three touchdown passes and running for another.
“I am so happy that I never have to play against him ever again. And I just told him that,” Cioroch said. “You know, that’s our fourth game playing against him. We’ve been playing against him since he was a sophomore. He got us a couple times. And you know that kid is a heck of a player. There is no better quarterback than I played against the high school level than that kid. I’m surprised he doesn’t have offers from every power five school in the area.”
But the answer for Isaac’s score came almost immediately, as Noonan took the ensuing kickoff back 80 yards, setting up a 1-yard scoring sneak by Lippert just three plays into the fourth that re-established Western’s two-score margin at 35-20.
Osborne responded with a 15-yard scoring pass to Jordan White with 7:25 left, but two minutes later, Noonan was in the end zone again, on a 9-yard run, making it 42-27 with 5:17 to play. Mott turned it over on downs with 3:14 left, and the Warriors ran the rest of the clock out.
Osborne got Mott on the board first, with an 11-yard scoring run, but Noonan responded with a 39-yard scoring run to make it 7-6 Western. A 4-yard touchdown by Donovan Triplett made it 14-6, then the first of Lippert’s two short TD runs made it 21-6 with 19 seconds left in the first half. Noonan had a 25-yard run to make it 28-6 less than a minute into the second half, before Osborne started bringing Mott back, with a 3-yard scoring pass to Mike Bolan.
“Buddy, they (the Corsairs) are good. They're gonna win a lot of football games. They have skill players everywhere. It was almost just like, not trying to stop them, gonna try to just slow them down,” Cioroch said. “And you know, we've gotten some situations where we were able to, then we were able to take long drives and slow them down, keep the football away from that kid and pay it off in the end.”
Mott hosts South Lyon in Lakes Valley Conference play next week, while Western hosts Waterford Kettering.