LAKE PLACID - It was a first half the Green Dragons would like to forget.
After a one-point loss last week, LaBelle rebounded with a resounding win over Lake Placid on Friday night, as the Cowboys whipped the Green Dragons 59-32 at Roger Scarborough Memorial Field.
The Class 4A-District 6 opener for both teams, LaBelle improved to 2-4 overall and 1-0 in district play, while Lake Placid dropped to 2-3 and 0-1.
From the outset, though, the game appeared as if it would be a shootout.
LaBelle scored on its opening drive, as Danny Robinson carried the Cowboys down the field while Jesus Karr punched the ball in at the goal line. The Dragons' defense responded, recovering a LaBelle fumble in their end zone to tie it at six all, but the rushing attack from Robinson was difficult to quell.
With the Dragons defense holding the Cowboys at midfield, Lake Placid's Eldon McKenzie was finally able to break free, scampering 40 yards for a touchdown. After they knocked in the extra point, the Dragons lead 13-12 at the end of a wild first quarter.
But that's when the game simply got away from them. "Turnovers," said Lake Placid coach Jason Holden. "We had four turnovers in the first half that turned into four touchdowns. When we had the ball, it was obvious - we go right down the field - but we made some poor decisions and we got ourselves in too big of a hole."
LaBelle answered McKenzie's touchdown with another time-consuming drive, punctuated by Robinson's 3-yard touchdown run. The Cowboys went for two, and A.J. Ayala's pass was on target to Garrett Coker to put them up 20-13 with just three minutes left to go in the first half.
Lake Placid followed with a solid drive of its own, but Nick Tuason's fumble gave LaBelle the ball near midfield.
A deep pass from Ayala to Michael Lopez, coupled with a Dragons pass interference penalty, put the Cowboys back at the goal line and Robinson punched it in from there for his second touchdown of the half.
Robinson finished the first half with two scores and 173 yards rushing.
Seeking to score again before halftime, LaBelle delivered a pooch kick to Lake Placid. Tuason caught it near the Dragons 40-yard line, broke a handful of tackles, and fumbled again. The Cowboys recovered the ball in Lake Placid territory with just under 40 seconds left to play in the quarter.
LaBelle wasted little time in scoring, as Ayala tossed a screen pass to Jerome Baxter, who bolted 45 yards for a touchdown. The Cowboys added the extra point to take a 33-13 lead.
Facing a 20-point deficit at the half, the Dragons came out throwing on their first possession after the kick off. But quarterback Robert Walton's pass sailed on him, going right into the hands of LaBelle's Jorge Betancourt, who returned the interception for a 60-yard score. With the extra point, the Cowboys went into halftime leading 40-13.
"Kids did keep playing - Eldon always runs the ball hard, but he can't go every play for us," Holden said. "And Foster Walker at the other wing, he runs his guts out and he blocks. He springs a lot of plays for Eldon."
Receiving the ball to start the second half, Lake Placid again turned the ball over on a Walton interception, but hustle from Walker managed to save another defensive touchdown, as LaBelle's Eduardo Gonzalez had a wide open field in front of him.
Down at the goal line, LaBelle's Baxter punched the ball in from two yards out to put the Cowboys up 46-13.
After a Lake Placid drive stalled, LaBelle took over following a Green Dragons punt. Quickly getting down to the goal line again thanks to their stable of running backs,
That's when Ayala uncorked a pass to Betancourt, who caught the ball in the corner of the end zone to put LaBelle over the half-century mark.
Undaunted by the deficit on the scoreboard, Walker and McKenzie marched Lake Placid back down field, where Marquavein Copeland scampered 40 yards for a touchdown to cut into LaBelle's lead and make it 53-19.
Another solid defensive stand followed, and the Dragons were able to turn a Cowboys punt into points when McKenzie broke free for his second touchdown of the night.
The Cowboys scored one more touchdown after another long drive to go up 59-25, but Lake Placid got the final touchdown of the night when Tuason bowled into the end zone from five yards out.
With a bye week on the horizon, Holden said he's got a lot to work on before the team heads down to Clewiston (4-1, 1-0) for a district game against the Tigers or Oct. 18.
"Number one thing to work on is our discipline," Holden said. "Win or lose, it's the first thing I think about. And tonight we just weren't disciplined all over the football field. We've got to get that taken care of before we can make progress anywhere."