Blue Streaks head into McKinley showdown in need of win

BY Andy Harris

 

LAKE TWP. The Lake Blue Streaks have lived up to their name this season.

Through five games, they've had a three-game winning streak and a current two-game losing skid that has undercut much of the impact their strong start had on their playoff hopes.

Back-to-back losses to Louisville and Jackson have Lake at 3-2 entering a crucial Week 6 contest against Federal League co-leader Canton McKinley and veteran head coach Dan DeGeorge knows that tackling the challenges the Bulldogs pose starts with the details.

"We've just got to get better and be more consistent," DeGeorge said. "We've had two tough games in a row against good teams, so we need a good week of practice and for our guys to step up."

In opening the season with three straight wins, Lake showcased an offense built around dual threat quarterback Paul Troyer and physical senior running back Cameron Martin.

That, coupled with an opportunistic defense, had the Blue Streaks rolling early on. That roll came to a halt when Louisville hung 41 points on the scoreboard in Week 4 and after a 31-17 loss to Jackson last Friday, having an explosive McKinley offense on the horizon is a potentially scary thought.

However, Lake has shown a propensity for standing toe to toe with the Bulldogs in recent years, even in seasons when McKinley was widely considered the best team in the Federal League and the Blue Streaks were given little chance to compete prior to the game by pundits.

"Many years on paper we shouldn't be able to compete with them and we've found ways to do that and to win a few of those games," DeGeorge said.

He noted that whether it's McKinley or any other opponent on the schedule, the expectation is that players will be up for the challenge and that the coaching staff will do its job in preparing them with the tools they need to take that competitive energy and channel it into a winning effort.

He admitted that in certain games, his team still "needs the ball to bounce our way a few times," although that's true for most any high school team - save for those with such an overwhelming pool of talent that skill alone puts them light years ahead of the competition.

For Lake and most every other school in the area, getting a fortunate bounce of the ball makes a big difference in close games. The Jackson loss, while it saw Lake fall behind by 17 points, also featured such a play.

After blocking the punt of third team All-Ohio kicker Trey Wright, the Blue Streaks saw Wright scoop up the blocked kick - an extreme rarity due to the physics and force of blocked kicks, among other things - and run 25 yards for a first down.

Instead of prime field position for the Lake offense or a special teams touchdown via one of the Blue Streaks snagging the loose ball and taking it into the end zone, Jackson got a first down out of the play and scored a touchdown moments later.

It was in many ways the extreme opposite of a play in Week 3, when a fumble at the goal line bounced into Troyer's hands and he scooped the ball up and ran in for a score.

Navigating the schedule the rest of the way will require both fortunate bounces and skill, with a dose of toughness and a dash of focus mixed in. Perry remains on the schedule, currently undefeated and tied with McKinley atop the league standings. So does an improved Hoover team averaging 30 points a game and a rivalry contest with Green.

The trick, DeGeorge says in a moment that should make football coaches everywhere smile and nod, is to isolate each week into its own entity, forgetting about what happened in the last game and not allowing oneself to think ahead to future contests.

"We always talk about worrying about what we can control and going 1-0 that week, whether we won or lost precious week," DeGeorge said. "I think it's a good message for life as well because you need to be able to focus and work hard toward your goal."

EXTRA POINTS

It was a game whose first half aptly fit the term "dumpster fire" for Coventry. The Comets turned the ball over five times before intermission (and six in the game), had a touchdown wiped out by a motion penalty, got a sideline warning and accrued more than 100 yards in penalties (160 for the game). The third quarter wasn't much better, but two touchdowns in the final 3:11, including an Andrew Arnold touchdown run with 11 seconds left, earned Coventry a 21-17 win over winless Field to set up a Portage Trail Conference Metro first-place showdown with Ravenna this week.

Long drives and close calls have become the norm for Mogadore, which eked out a 35-32 win over Meadowbrook in a game delayed by weather. The Wildcats rallied from a six-point deficit to claim the win and in the process, showed their offense under senior quarterback Luke Rosato can pile up the points. With the win, Mogadore is now first in the Division VI, Region 21 playoff standings.

Green broke through for its first win, running wild on GlenOak behind junior Porter Flinn. The 5-foot-6 running back torched the Golden Eagles for 221 yards and two touchdowns as the Bulldogs claimed the 27-10 victory. Whether Green can carry that momentum forward into the second half of the season remains to be seen, but it's fair to say the orange and black entered the second stanza feeling a bit better about themselves.

Springfield found the going tough against PTC Metro co-leader Ravenna on the road, falling 35-12. The Spartans found themselves in an early hole and while they were able to avoid being shut out for a third time this season, the overall level of play in the PTC Metro is improved this season with recent lower-tier dwellers Cloverleaf and Norton both improved and Ravenna and Coventry battling for the top spot, so the second half of the season promises to be equally taxing for first-year head coach David Bosko and his team.

Manchester continues to Wright, er, write itself a winning story. A 38-20 triumph over Triway to remain undefeated in Principals Athletic Conference play saw junior ball carrier Ethan Wright continue his push for a second straight 2,000-yard season with 212 yards on 26 carries for two touchdowns, including a 64-yard scoring sprint in the first quarter, to propel his team to the win. Like Mogadore, Manchester now finds itself atop the playoff standings in its region.

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On Twitter: @aharrisBURB

 

 

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