Trojans Secure Eighth Victory and a Return Trip to the Postseason
Above: East Lansing senior running back Kobe Hayward carried 33 times for 181 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Trojans to a 20-17 victory over Okemos.
The gridiron journey that began almost a year ago culminated Friday night with a victory that reinforced the belief that if you put in the time and dedication, and stay true to your mission, good things quite possibly will develop.
Sparked by the healthy return of senior running back Kobe Hayward, the East Lansing High School football team capped off one of its most successful regular seasons in recent history by defeating Okemos 20-17 for its eighth victory against only one loss.
The Trojans, 8-1 overall and 5-1 in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue division, will open the MHSAA Division 3 playoffs at 7 p.m. this Friday against Haslett at Lynn C. Adams Stadium.
“When you take a look back and think of all the work that has been done since last December … we kind of knew we had a chance to be a fairly good football team,” said Trojans head coach Bill Feraco. “But how good? A lot of things had to happen for it to turn out this way.
“Most of all, I’m happy for the team, the program and the school. The players should be proud of their accomplishment.”
The initial plan against Okemos was to ease Hayward into the game flow but that didn’t last very long. He made his presence felt the first time he touched the ball and maintained his presence throughout the game. He carried the ball 33 times for 181 yards and scored two of East Lansing’s three touchdowns.
“I felt great,” said Hayward, who also contributed four tackles from his defensive back position. “It wasn’t easy being on the sidelines for two weeks but it gave me a chance to heal up completely and come back at one hundred percent.
“A lot of credit needs to go to my teammates. They have confidence in me and what we can do as a team, and that’s very important.”
Hayward scored on a 2-yard run in the second quarter and a 13-yard in the third quarter as the Trojans built a 13-3 lead on the strength of ball control and a defense that bent slightly but didn’t break. Senior linebacker Justin Brown made a key defensive play early in the fourth quarter when he intercepted Okemos quarterback Mason Kaczmarek inside the Chieftains’ 30-yard line.
Hayward then ran the ball three times for 15 yards and caught a pass for 11 more yards before junior quarterback Sam Busch finished the short drive with a 1-yard plunge to increase East Lansing’s lead with 8:23 remaining.
However, Okemos rallied quickly behind Kaczmarek to score on passing plays of 50 yards to Derek Sims and 14 yards to Justin Richardson to slice the margin to three points with 2:34 remaining. Okemos then had a chance to tie the game with under 20 second to play but John Luca Miguldi’s 40-yard field goal attempt traveled wide of the left upright.
“Give Okemos credit,” Feraco said. “They battled back and didn’t make it easy on us. It was a tough kick at the end the way the wind had been blowing.”
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