CORINTH — For more than a half of Friday night’s pivotal game against Little Elm, it seemed Lake Dallas’ defense couldn’t buy a key stop.
Then, with one quick swing of momentum late in the third quarter, Little Elm was left searching for answers as Lake Dallas grabbed a lead it never surrendered en route to a 41-34 win to claim a return trip to the postseason.
“It was a big deal for all of us,” said Lake Dallas coach Michael Young, whose team missed the playoffs last year for only the second time in 12 years. “Our kids and coaches are excited. This is what we do this for. Last year was very disappointing. Little Elm made a play at the end to knock us out. Now, we have a chance to win a district championship outright, and we’re gonna go try to do that and then worry about the playoffs.”
The win was spearheaded by a key sequence late in the third quarter when Ky’lee Smith scored on a 9-yard touchdown run, reversing field after mishandling a pitch from quarterback Ryan Depperschmidt, to turn an apparent disaster into points and tie the game at 34.
On Little Elm’s ensuing possession, quarterback Logan Kohler was intercepted by Lake Dallas sophomore Kobee Minor. Soon after, Depperschmidt found a wide-open Charles Williams in the middle of the field for a 37-yard catch-and-run touchdown to give the Falcons the winning margin just a minute after Smith’s game-tying score. Depperschmidt totaled four touchdowns — two passing and two rushing.
“They ran it right down our throats to start the second half, and that wasn’t good,” Young said. “The whole key was getting ahead with that sequence. That changed the way they were going at us. They weren’t worrying about throwing, and once we got the lead, they threw the ball a little and that helped us out.”
The Lake Dallas (6-3, 5-1) win clinched the top spot in the 5A Division II playoff bracket out of District 14-5A and put the Falcons in a position to win the district championship next week when they travel to face Prosper (7-2, 5-1). After that, a playoff matchup with 13-5A runner-up Frisco Reedy awaits.
Boxscore: Little Elm at Lake Dallas
Although Lake Dallas’ offense had its share of success, the Falcons’ special teams struggled mightily in the first half and gave the Lobos chance after chance to remain in the driver’s seat.
The Falcons’ first two touchdowns were followed by missed extra points, which left them chasing points, and a key play to start the second quarter squandered a 12-7 lead.
Little Elm’s Brandon Crossley returned a Marcial Apaez punt 72 yards for a touchdown to put Little Elm in front and continue a rough night for the Falcons’ special teams, which later allowed a big kickoff return deep into Lake Dallas territory leading to another Little Elm score.
“They had 27 points, and every one of them was a special teams thing or a turnover on us,” Young said. “All their points came on that stuff. That’s how special teams is. You go five or six weeks and no problems and then have that. I was proud of our offense for keeping us in it and scoring points.”
Lake Dallas’ defense stepped up in the second half, especially on conversion downs.
After Little Elm (7-2, 4-2) went up 34-27 with 5:59 left in the third quarter with a 22-yard touchdown on third-and-long, the Lobos were 8-for-11 on third downs at that point.
From then on, Little Elm was held to 1-for-5 on third downs.
“The key late in the game was our pass rush,” Young said. “It got really good, and we went to some nickel and were rushing three and getting some pressure on the quarterback. That was a big difference that last quarter.”
Lake Dallas 41, Little Elm 34
LE -- Glenn Young 2 run (Jacob Blakely kick)
LD -- Ryan Depperschmidt 15 run (kick failed)
LD -- Ryan Depperschmidt 26 run (kick failed)
LE -- Brandon Crossley 72 punt return (Anthony Goodman kick)
LE -- Kevin Terry 14 pass from Logan Kohler (Jacob Blakely kick)
LD -- Christian Covington 38 pass from Ryan Depperschmidt (Charles Williams pass from Ryan Depperschmidt)
LE -- Corey Moses 4 run (kick failed)
LD -- Charles Williams 2 run (Marcial Apaez kick)
LE -- Corey Moses 22 pass from Logan Kohler (Jacob Blakely kick)
LD -- Ky'lee Smith 9 run (Marcial Apaez kick)
LD -- Charles Williams 37 pass from Ryan Depperschmidt (Marcial Apaez kick)
Rushing -- LD: Ryan Depperschmidt 13-98, Ky'lee Smith 9-46, Charles Williams 7-30, Idsael Nava 7-18, LE: Glenn Young 20-94, Corey Moses 17-69, Logan Kohler 10-14, Daelen Warren-Fruge 1--1, Chris Dorrough 1--1, Gerson Espinoza 1--10.
Passing -- LD: Ryan Depperschmidt 8-13-2-153, LE: Logan Kohler 7-22-1-107, Juan Ponce 1-1-0-6.
Receiving -- LD: Brandon Engel 2-44, Ky'lee Smith 2-40, Christian Covington 1-38, Charles Williams 3-31, LE: Kevin Terry 3-53, Brandon Crossley 1-23, Corey Moses 1-22, Chris Dorrough 2-11, Glenn Young 1-4.