Pilots struggle in loss to West Bloomfield

DETROIT, Mich. - De La Salle Collegiate's offensive struggles continued on Friday night, as the Pilots had trouble against visiting West Bloomfield all night long in a 16-8 loss at Tom Adams Field at Wayne State University.

"Our defense played well, definitely well enough to win," coach Mike Giannone said. "Our guys flew to the football. But our offensive production was poor, once again. They isolated on our difficulties. Our offensive line struggled. (West Bloomfield) angled, slant, pinched, and did whatever they wanted. I felt bad for Anthony (Stepnitz). He couldn't even get the snap and they had three players in the backfield."

De La Salle finished with just 78 total yards - just 2.05 per play. And the ground game could not get going, amassing just 10 yards on 27 carries.

"They were big, they were strong and quick," Giannone said. "Our scheme allows us to double team and their two linebackers came in and shot the gaps and they just beat us."

West Bloomfield struck first, with sophomore Dillon Tatum scoring from 13 yards out to give his team a 13-0 lead late in the first quarter.

The Pilots answered right back, as junior Brett Stanley's 30-yard kickoff return gave his team great field position. A handful of plays later, Stepnitz found sophomore Alton McCullum in the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown. A 2-point conversion by Stanley gave De La Salle an 8-7 lead. 

That was about the extent to any offensive success for the Pilots, who turned the ball over three times. They fumbled twice in the second quarter alone, the second of which led to another Lakers touchdown. Junior running back Donovan Edwards hit junior Darian Kruja for a 35-yard touchdown to make it a 14-8 ball game. 

The De La Salle defense kept the team in the game, collecting three turnovers of its own. Junior Tyler Gerling, senior Justin Desmet, and senior Braden Babich all had interceptions for their team. Desmet finished with a team-high 10 tackles, while sophomore William Beesley finished with eight. Gerling and junior Justice Scott had six tackles apiece.

"It was two teams that wanted to show that they were the better of the two," Giannone said. "Coach (Ron) Bellamy came in here and stated that this was their first playoff game and they were going to treat it as such, and they did."

West Bloomfield capped off an 8-1 regular season and automatically qualified for the state playoffs. De La Salle is now 5-4 and will have to wait until Sunday night to learn its playoff fate. Only team with six wins are guaranteed a playoff spot, though teams with 5-4 can reach the postseason based on playoff points earned. 

"I think we've got a good shot at moving on," Giannone said. "We haven't been in this situation in a while. The last two years we were already in and we were already planning for whoever we were going to play. Now, we're wondering if we're going to play. We're going to plan on as if we're gonna play and if they tell us otherwise, then we'll collect equipment and call it a year."

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