Lake aims at better execution in rematch with Perry

BY Joe Mitchin

 

The Lake High School football team hasn’t forgotten about what happened in Week 8.

The Blue Streaks traveled to Perry that night for a Federal League showdown with playoff implications on the line. On paper, it looked like it was going to be a good one.

Lake, though, left enemy territory on the losing end of a 35-0 shutout.

It was a frustrating, humbling and even infuriating time for Lake players and coaches alike. However, it also served as a wake-up call of sorts for the Blue Streaks in the team's final two games of the regular season. This week, Lake gets its shot to atone its first meeting with the Panthers when the Blue Streaks travel to Perry Stadium on Friday night for a Division II, Region 7 quarterfinal.

“It’s a tough matchup,” Lake coach Dan DeGeorge said Wednesday. “Perry is just an excellent football team and they are playing great right now. We definitely played our worst game of the year against them a couple of weeks ago and I think some of that was our kids not playing like they are taught to play.”

Since the loss to Perry, the Blue Streaks responded by playing Division I playoff-qualifying GlenOak tough, yet falling in heartbreaking fashion after giving up a game-winning touchdown pass with just one second to play. Then, Lake survived a late scare by Green in Week 10 to clinch its second playoff berth in as many years.

The Blue Streaks led by as many as 21 points in the fourth quarter of that game, but they needed a stop on a Bulldogs’ two-point conversion attempt with less than a minute to play to finish off the 35-34 win.

All that helped guide Lake to this moment. The eighth-seed in Region 7 is certainly well-aware of what it’ll be up against in its playoff opener; only a few weeks have passed since Lake last saw Perry.

Rather than try to reconstruct much of their game plan, though, the Blue Streaks are instead focusing on crisper execution than in their first trip to Perry.

“On our side, we have to execute better,” DeGeorge said. “Perry is very, very disciplined and well-coached. So, for us to have a chance, we are going to have to cause some turnovers and hit some big plays. The ball is going to have to bounce our way. With a better attitude and more effort, we’re hoping that can happen on Friday.”

The Blue Streaks, who finished the regular season with a 6-4 mark, are led by a pair of rushers that mean business. Senior tailback Joel Francis has carried much of the load for Lake, rushing 218 times for 968 yards and 14 touchdowns on the year.

However, sophomore Cameron Martin has become a steady complement to Francis, especially in the second-half of the season. Martin only carried the ball 95 times this season, but he’s made the most of those opportunities. Altogether, he has 534 yards and 10 scores on the year. That duo is joined by senior quarterback Owen Goodheart, a nearly 1,000-yard passer on the season.

For Lake, those two backs, as well as the offensive line in front of them, will be under pressure to get the Blue Streaks’ powerful run game going against the Panthers. Lake ran for just 72 yards on 19 carries in the Week 8 loss to Perry.

But just because the Panthers had success in limiting the Blue Streaks on the ground last time, that doesn’t mean the region’s top seed has lost any respect for its upcoming opponent.

“It’s a hard game to play because we know each other so well,” Perry coach Keith Wakefield said. “If we can’t stop their run game, then it’ll be hard for us to win the game. Both sides can probably say that.”

Along with Lake’s offensive struggles from Week 8, the team’s defense performance wasn’t much better. The Blue Streaks allowed nearly 400 total rushing yards to Perry in their first encounter with the Panthers, and gave up 21 points in the second quarter alone.

That led DeGeorge to challenge his team’s physical nature down the stretch. And while the fourth-year coach is happy for his group to get back into the postseason again, he knows his team will need to turn its worst performance of the year against Perry in Week 8 into its best one against the Panthers this week.

DeGeorge believes his team is up for the challenge.

“We know what they are going to do, it’s just going to come down to us being a lot tougher than the last time,” he said. “We have to find a way to stop them and find a way to score some points.”

Reach Joe at 330-775-1129 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

On Twitter: @jmitchinINDE

 

 

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