Lake and Green prepare to open up season

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By Keno Sultan

The Suburbanite


Lake vs. Green 2009

Jeff Durbin may be the grandfather of Federal League coaches in Stark County but don't be prepared to get him a cane or a rocking chair anytime soon.

Just because he retired from Lake Middle School after 15 years of presiding over middle school students, don't get the perception that his passion for the sport of football has dwindled a bit.

Durbin will commence his 21st season Friday night at Lake Blue Streak Stadium as the host Blue Streaks will for the third straight year in a row challenge the Green Bulldogs in what will attract a heavy crowd for the first-week confrontation.

Lake has won the last two meetings by a combined score of 60-37 with the first win in 2008 coming by a score of 39-30 as they resurrected themselves from a 16-0 deficit to outscore the host Bulldogs 39-14 the rest of the way and then powered their way to a 21-0 lead on their way to a 21-7 triumph. Lake has outscored Green by an average of 30-18.5 in the two meetings.


“I expect this game to be close and I don't see either team winning by a wide margin,” Durbin said despite the scoring trends. “We can't let Green start out on the blocks like they did last year. Offense, defense, and special teams, we have to get off on the right foot away from the start. It was a physical game last year and it will be that way again this year. It will come down to the skill players at best.”


In his third season, Tom Stacy knows how to resurrect a program. He resuscitated life back into a Massillon program that was in critical condition after two 4-6 seasons. In 2005, the Tigers reached their peak as a program in competing for the Division I state championship in amassing a school-record 13 victories and he finished overall with a 26-11 record with one undefeated season at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.

Using the same forceful approach he inoculated into his charges at Massillon, he has Green arriving into the game against Lake winners of three out of their last five games and they too have brought into that forceful approach.

It's simple with the 51-year-old father of four. You lead with force, you play with force, and you win with force. It was the approach that made Massillon successful when they faced off against teams bigger than them from many fronts.

“We have been a Division I school the last five years and our goals are to compete for a Suburban League title and improve in all areas and there is a lot we can do,” Stacy said of his approach to the game.


A key to potential success for the Blue Streaks will either ride on the legs of three-year running back starter Jim Luther or the arm of Jon Spohn. Luther has been knowing for becoming stronger as a game wears on especially in the fourth quarter when a game is tight. Spohn is coming off a near-flawless performance in the Blue Streaks final scrimmage against Akron Hoban and will be expected to carry that over to actual competition.

A big misperception is that the quarterback position at Lake has not had the same depth given the graduations of John Rutan, T.J. Viscuso, and Ryan Christiansen. That has not been the case according to Durbin.

“We want Spohn to manage the game well for us,” Durbin said. “But at the same time, you also have Logan Wartman and Mason Stephens who can also line up for us at quarterback. One thing we have done especially at the middle school level is have more than one person play quarterback so we can see who will have the position in high school. Our depth at that position has been very good.”


Stacy can say the same about using multiple quarterbacks. He was a winner with Bobby Huth and Shawn Weisend. He also won with Michael Clark and Chris Willoughby. And it figures to be no different with Jon Cundiff and Mark Zimmerman.

Cundiff is a third year starter. But Zimmerman showed his prowess last season in leading the junior varsity with 20 touchdown passes.


“Jon is going to be challenged. Both he and Zimmerman had a good preseason. Jon is someone who can run with the ball but Zimmerman is one who can pass,” Stacy said. “And you know better than anyone else I did that when I was at Massillon I started two quarterbacks.”


One thing is factual. Both teams will not beat themselves and do not turn the ball over much. It will make for a great night of high school football for both programs but the victor will have an ample amount of momentum going into the second week of the 2010 high school football season.


This game will tell a lot about both teams after Friday night in a tale of two programs, one looking to return to the Division II playoffs for the first time since 2007 and the other looking to take advantage of a class that has yet to lose a game and have not lost since they were freshmen.


“The big thing is that we have to play smart. We are going against a team that may be favored to win the Federal League and we have to do what we can to win,” Stacy said.


“It's going to be a great game for the communities of Lake and Green along with the counties of Stark and Summit. It is important for both teams to represent their communities and start the season off well,” Durbin said.

Jeff Durbin may be the grandfather of Federal League coaches in Stark County but don't think about getting him a cane and rocking chair anytime soon.

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