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Lake Puts Away Northwest In Rare Clash

BY Steve Doerschuk

 

CANAL FULTON There might as well have been a wall. Lake and Northwest, high schools touching Stark County's northern border, hadn't collided in football since two years before Bill Belichick became a head coach on Lake Erie. The wall came down Friday night, with Lake pulling away to a 41-13 win in their season opener at Dr. Martin Smilek Stadium.

The teams last met when iconic Blue Streak Matt Christopher was a sophomore who played in a 14-3 win at Lake. The last time they squared off at Northwest was 1988, when Harrison Ford and Sean Connery tag-teamed in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Lake won that one, 14-0. In the decades-delayed series resumption, Lake led 14-0 by the middle of the second quarter, pleasing a Blue Streak following that packed the visitors' side.

A sizeable crowd on the Northwest side cheered when Olivia Wyles kicked the extra point that pulled the Indians to 14-7 with six seconds left in the first half. The 5-foot-7 senior became the first female in school history to score a point for the varsity football team. Shane Minne, a Northwest assistant coach, knew through his work with Wyles as a youth pastor that she is a good athlete with a strong leg in soccer. The Indians were looking for kicking help, and Minne approached Wilds two weeks ago, saying, "Why don't you try kicking for our football team?" Northwest head coach Joe Harbour said, "We had an incredible kicker the last three years and he graduated, so we had an open tryout. A lot of the guys just weren't doing that well. She won the job. She's got a long way to go and she can hit from about 35 yards, and she can be a tremendous asset."

The Blue Streaks, who reached the playoffs last fall, reintroduced All-Ohio special mention defensive end Robert Harris, now a 6-foot-6, 235-pound senior. He also is an intimidating receiver on offense, but on his first touch he fumbled at the end of a 10-yard gain after getting stung by 5-foot-8 Northwest defensive back Ryan Davis. Northwest's key, early opportunity ended on a fourth-and-9 pass breakup by Austin Schrock. On the next play, Lake junior Noah Collins charged up the middle on a trap and sprinted 60 yards to the 10. Junior Cameron Martin scored on a quick toss from 3 yards out to give Lake a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Martin, who produced 10 touchdowns in 2016 and is what DeGeorge calls "a prototypical Lake tailback," opened the scoring by blasting through the only would-be tackler in his way on a counter play covering 38 yards. David Harbaugh's point-after kick made it 7-0 with 3:22 left in the first quarter.

Harris and fellow senior captain Alex Keith anchored a defensive front seven that kept Northwest far from the goal line most of the night. When the Indians had a chance to close the gap before halftime after a short punt, Lake senior Dylan Reeves sacked quarterback Luke Fennell on first down from the 37. Fennell kept trying to make plays with his legs, though, and he succeeded late, unconventionally. Fennell scrambled from the 5, broke a tackle, and fumbled as he neared the goal line, but teammate Nick Osborn pounced on the ball in the end zone at the 0:06 mark. Wyles's history-making kick made it 14-7.

In the early moments of the third quarter, Austin Schrock's interception set up Lake at the Northwest 20. After Martin made a quick cut to the outside and ran 13 yards to the corner of the end zone, it was a 21-7 game. Martin finished with 21 carries for 150 yards and three touchdowns. After Troyer scored on a quarterback sneak in the final seconds of the third quarter, the fourth quarter became superfluous. Strong-armed junior Paul Troyer debuted as the Blue Streaks' quarterback, operating behind a basically all-new line. Senior Niko Davis played quarterback for most of the fourth quarter, directing a drive that Rayshawn Brooks-Postlewait's 24-yard TD run finished.

This was a non-league game, and Northwest knows the drill, having slogged along as an independent since 2011 before arranging this year's debut in the Principal's Athletic Conference. Division IV Northwest, like Division II Lake, was 6-4 in the 2016 regular season. The Indians's chances at an upset were hurt by the suspension of four starters. Second-year Northwest head coach Joe Harbour called his opener a chance to battle "a Stark County big boy." He declined to comment on his suspended players, other than to say, "They were unavailable." Harbour wants Fennell, who ran for 739 yards and passed for 629 last year, to make a jump as a passer in his second year as a starter. Fennell ran for 70 yards on 22 attempts Friday. Lake jumped into the season with a win that set up an interesting non-league game at Dover next Friday.

Reach Steve at 330-580-8347 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP

 

 

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