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Hilltoppers defeat Lakers to advance to second round of playoffs

By Kelsie Hoitomt

GLENWOOD CITY — Last Friday the Glenwood City football team hosted the Turtle Lake Lakers for the first round of playoff action.

The Toppers defeated the 3-3 Lakeland-South conference Lakers 54-36 to advance to the second round of playoffs.

The Toppers were explosive right from the start as they scored the majority of their points in the first quarter.

Issac Tuttle ran in a touchdown with just two minutes underway in the game, but a Hilltopper penalty forced the ball back.

Regardless of the penalty, Nick Mrdutt handed the ball off to Tuttle who was again able to break through the line for a 45 yard touchdown.

Mrdutt passed the ball to Matt Schouten for the two-point conversion play to put the Toppers on the board first 8-0.

The Lakers were forced to punt on their second drive and Tuttle seized the opportunity as he ran the ball into the end zone for a 60 yard punt return. Kopacz ran the ball in for the two-point conversion to put the Toppers ahead 16-0.

Tanner Arnold proved he was the leader in passing yards in the Lakeland-South conference as he came out slinging, connecting with Kyle Steffen, John Lahti and Andrew Davis throughout the game.

On their following drive, Arnold drew back for a pass to Steffen, which resulted in a 56 yard touchdown. The two-point conversion was unsuccessful, but the Lakers were still on the board 6-16.

The Hilltoppers began their drive on the Lakers 48 yard line. Adam Holmquist brought the ball to the 28 yard line on a 20 yard run. Mrdutt handed off to Tuttle and Jeff Kopacz who brought the ball to the 21 yard line where Holmquist was able to carry the ball in for his first touchdown of the game.

Mrdutt tossed the ball up to Tuttle for the two-point conversion to put the score at 24-6 with 5:49 still left in the first quarter.

Schouten ended the Lakers following drive as he intercepted a pass thrown by Arnold to put the Toppers on their own 39 yard line.

Tuttle was able to dodge several tackles for a 39 yard run to put the ball on the Lakers 21 yard line.

With the ball sitting on the five yard line, Mrdutt ran it into the end zone, but another penalty on the Toppers brought the ball out to the 15 yard line.

Again regardless of the penalty, the Hilltoppers were able to put the ball back into the end zone on the legs of Tuttle. With 25 seconds left in the first quarter, the Toppers were now ahead 30-6.

The second quarter started with the Lakers on their own 47 yard line. Two incomplete passes forced them to punt. They tried a punt fake, which was no good due to a penalty on their own side.

The Toppers recovered the second punt attempt on their own 26 yard line. Tuttle again broke through the line for a huge run, but was brought down by a shoe string on the Lakers 27 yard line.

The drive would end near the 20 yard line as the ball was fumbled and recovered by the Lakers. The Toppers’ defense was able to hold the Lakers and again force them to punt.

This time the Hilltoppers would hold onto the ball for the touchdown by Kopacz. Tuttle ran the ball in for the two-point conversion to put the score at 38-6 with just over five minutes left in the half.

The Lakers were able to answer back as Arnold continuously connected with Steffen to march them into the end zone for their second touchdown of the game. Steffen caught the ball again for the two-point conversion to put the score at 38-14.

The second half of the game started with an onside kick by the Lakers that was recovered by the Lakers on the Toppers 47 yard line.

Kopacz intercepted the first pass of the Lakers drive to get the Toppers the ball back on their own 28 yard line.

The Toppers struggled to move the ball and a sack and incomplete pass by Mrdutt on fourth down set the ball on the 24 yard line for the Lakers.

However, it was the hands of Kopacz who intercepted a pass by Arnold to change hands on the field again.

This time the Toppers were able to put plays together as the legs of Kopacz, Holmquist and Tuttle brought the ball to the six yard line.

Holmquist ran the ball in for his second touchdown of the game and Tuttle got the two-point conversion to push the Toppers further ahead 46-14 with 4:03 left in the third quarter.

The Lakers were able to score on their following drive after Arnold connected with Andrew Davis for a 42 yard touchdown run. Steffen caught the two-point conversion pass with 36 seconds left in the quarter to put the score at 46-22.

The Lakers attempted another onside kick, which was recovered by the Hilltoppers to start their drive on the 36 yard line.

Mrdutt held onto the ball for a 39 yard run to put the Toppers on the Lakers 25 yard line. A penalty on the Lakers set the ball just short of the goal line and Holmquist drove it in for the Hilltoppers’ final touchdown of the game.

Kopacz ran in the two-point conversion to put the Toppers ahead at 54-22 with 8:57 left in the game.

The Hilltoppers lost some momentum as they allowed the Lakers to score two more touchdowns, one by Davis and the other by Lahti with a 1:17 left on the clock.

Mrdutt would take a knee with a minute left in the game to seal the Hilltoppers’ 54-36 victory over the Lakers.

The Toppers rushed for a total of 483 yards. Tuttle led the game in rushing yards with 274 yards as well as one reception for 13 yards and and three touchdowns.

Holmquist had one of his best running games of the season with 103 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

Kopacz and Mrdutt each rushed for 53 yards. Mrdutt also had three completions for 25 yards; the other two receptions were by Schouten for 12 yards.

The Lakers had a total of 69 rushing yards and 346 receiving yards with Arnold completing 26 out of 43 passes.

“I thought the kids came out fast and physical like we wanted them to. Our schedule is tough every week, which prepared us for this challenge up front,” said coach Shane Strong.

The Hilltoppers are scheduled to play the number one seeded Clayton Bears in Clayton for the level-two playoff game on Saturday at 4:00 p.m.

“They are the top rated team in our division, but we feel we can beat anyone in this tournament if we play physical and minimize mental mistakes. Our kids have worked for this since last winter and we are excited for the opportunity,” shared Strong.