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OXFORD, Ohio – Loveland had a chance to upend Division II state champion Lakota West, but the Tigers fell two yards short.
Lakota West held on for a 49-46 win in the 17th annual Skyline Chili Showdown Friday at Yager Stadium on the campus of Miami University.
Lakota West senior linebacker C.J. Stalker tackled Loveland junior quarterback Drew Plitt on the 2 yard line in the closing seconds, and the clock ran out as Loveland was out of time outs.
Lakota West senior quarterback Blake Darland made the showdown more like a shootout. In his first start on the varsity level, Darland threw for 356 yards and five touchdowns to earn the win in his first varsity start.
“I have to make my own here at Lakota West,” Darland said. “It’s my senior year so I had to start out the season well.”
Three of Darland’s touchdown passes were to sophomore running back Zelwyn Robinson.
“There were just leaving wide receivers open and I knew in the 1-on-1 matchup, that favors us every time,” Darland said. “I knew he was going to beat a linebacker.”
Robinson was able to get the favorable matchup on a few different occasions. His three touchdown receptions were for 53, 52 and 19 yards. He was also playing in his first varsity game, which he finished with 166 receiving yards, and he was awarded the team’s Most Valuable Player award.
“I felt I was going to be faster than these guys,” Robinson said. “I just studied their plays and executed.”
When asked how he would rate his first varsity game, Robinson said he need to improvement working with his lineman and learning the plays.
It seemed like Lakota West was going to pull away when it took a 42-24 lead midway through the third quarter, but Loveland continued to fight back. The Tigers scored two touchdowns on runs by senior running back Nate Slagel and sophomore running Luke Waddell, and they added a two-point conversion to cut the lead to three, 42-39.
But Lakota West senior Mykel Chambers returned the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown to make the score 49-39.
Loveland was able to put together a 12-play, 78-yard drive on its next possession that ended on another Waddell touchdown that trimmed the deficit to three again, but that was how it ended as the Tigers’ final opportunity fell short.
Waddell was his team’s Most Valuable Player as he finished the game with 162 yards to go along with his three touchdowns.
Slagel rushed for 58 yards on 15 carries in his first game since tearing his ACL in Week 8 last season.
Next Friday Loveland will play at Lebanon, while Lakota West goes to The Pit to play Elder.