NANIH WAIYA — Braden Luke used his feet and his hands to lead visiting West Lauderdale to a 16-0 season-opening win over defending MHSAA Class 1A State Champion Nanih Waiya on Friday night.
Luke, a senior kicker/tight end, knocked through a 32-yard first-quarter field goal and hauled in an 18-yard touchdown pass from Eli Bryan in the second quarter to push the Knights to a 10-0 halftime lead. Luke’s affect on the game didn’t end there, as he boomed three of his four kick-offs into the end zone and punted four times for 173 yards, including a 60-yarder.
“I was very proud of the way we were able to flip the field through the kicking game early on,” said WL head coach Brock Clay.
After waiting out a 90-minute lightning delay to start the game, It didn’t take West Lauderdale long to get on the scoreboard. After three plays that failed to net any yardage on their first possession, the Knights were able to keep their drive going when Nanih Waiya muffed Luke’s punt and WL recovered on the Nanih Waiya 30-yard line. Four plays later Luke split the uprights with his field goal to put the winners up 3-0.
West Lauderdale’s lone first-half touchdown came at the conclusion of an unusual 16-play, 51-yard drive that was kept alive thanks to a 6-yard fourth down conversion run by Bryan, and a pass interference call on third and 8 that gave the Knights the ball on the NW 14-yard line. Three plays later Bryan hit a wide-open Luke, who pulled the ball in on his fingertips in the left flat, and rumbled into the end zone. Luke’s point after made it 10-0.
West Lauderdale threatened to score on its first possession of the second half, but the running back fumbled the ball into the end zone as he was about to score.
The Knights last score of the game came with four minutes left to play when Jackson Parker picked up his own team’s fumble and ran one yard for the score to close out an eight-play, 81-yard drive that was highlighted by a 48-yard pass from Bryan to Parker.
The West Lauderdale defense shut down Nanih Waiya’s highly touted running game, holding the Warriors to just 23 yards of total offense.
J.J. Grant led WL in rushing with 81 yards on 25 carries, while Bryan hit on 5-of-16 passes for 86 yards.
Clay said his Knights had plenty to work on before entertaining Philadelphia on Friday night.
“We didn’t play characteristic of what we have been playing in the past,” Clay said. “We have to minimize our mistakes. We put ourselves behind the chains on offense. We can’t afford to do that.”