By Josh Weir

FridayNightOhio


Luther
Lake running back Jim Luther looks to elude McKinley defensive back Ruben Burrows during Saturday’s 21-14 Blue Streaks win. Both Luther and Burrows are out due to injuries this week. REPOSITORY RAY STEWART

The entire range of emotions that go along with high school football was on display Saturday night at Fawcett Stadium.

After four punishing quarters, the Lake Blue Streaks celebrated a win against McKinley. The physical pain from this  slugfest no doubt was tempered by the excitement of victory for the Blue Streaks as they knelt around head coach Jeff Durbin.

Meanwhile, Lake senior running back Jim Luther stood.

On crutches.

“Your elated one minute,” Durbin said, “and you almost feel sick the next.”

The Blue Streaks will be without Luther indefinitely after he injured his knee in the fourth quarter Saturday. Lake isn’t putting a timetable on his possible return, but all indications are not good.

Injuries are an unavoidable part of football. But that doesn’t make them any easier to accept, especially when it’s a special talent. Just ask GlenOak, which lost Brian Hartline in Week 1 of his senior year in 2004, or Louisville, which lost Bobby Swigert after four weeks last year.

Lake, at 3-0 and ranked 13th statewide in Division II, has the look of a team that can make a serious playoff run. Now the Streaks must move on without their best player as football fans are robbed of the chance to watch one of the area’s most exciting players.

“You want to play good, two-fisted football, but you don’t want anyone to lose the opportunity to play this game. That just stinks,” McKinley head coach Ron Johnson said. “... I enjoy watching good players play. I enjoy watching Jimmy Luther play. I appreciate his talent. I appreciate his effort.”

It’s difficult to accurately describe how much Luther means to Lake. The Blue Streaks have scored 11 offensive touchdowns this season. Luther has scored 10 of them. And that’s not counting a fumble return touchdown and a kickoff return score by him.

Durbin talked about last year’s 34-27 win against Boardman, which comes to Lake on Friday night.

“We did some things that really helped us get to the perimeter last year,” Durbin said, before adding with a chuckle, “and one of those was Jimmy.”

Removing Luther from the equation sends a ripple through the whole team.

With Luther out, Jarrod Daugherty becomes the feature back. Which is fine, because the 5-9, 173-pound junior is a good runner and should perform well.

But Daugherty also is a starting linebacker and Lake’s second-leading tackler.

“That’s the whole domino effect,” Durbin said. “We need Jarrod to be the main guy offensively. But he’s done a really good job for us at linebacker. He adds to our team speed defensively, and that’s part of what’s made us really good.”

Durbin is counting on his defense to lead the team with Luther out. But someone must spell Daugherty at linebacker.

After congratulating his team on the McKinley win, Durbin talked to his players Monday about handling adversity. He used defensive lineman Jeremy Schrock as an example.

Lake defensive end Patrick Freed, a two-year starter, also is out indefinitely after injuring his foot during practice last week. So in stepped Schrock against McKinley. The 6-1, 168-pound senior was in on 10 tackles, including eight solos. He totaled five tackles for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery.

“That’s what everybody has to do,” Durbin said. “We have to pick up the slack a little bit with a rugged opponent we’re playing.”

The Blue Streaks already were limiting Luther’s plays on defense before he got hurt. Sophomore Zach Gazdacko played a lot of free safety and contributed in a big way against McKinley.

McKinley also is dealing with injuries. Defensive back Ruben Burrows is out with an elbow injury suffered in the Lake game, while running back Elijah Farrakhan tries to come back from a knee injury in that game.

“The next guy has to answer the bell,” Johnson said. “When that opportunity arises, that next guy is up. That’s why our kids work so hard and the competition is so fierce, because we have to have guys who can step up and play.”

It’s the circle of life in football. There is no avoiding it.

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