By Keno Sultan

The Suburbanite

Jackson TWP, Ohio — It is one thing for the Lake Blue Streaks to be given a challenging schedule. It is another to conquer the first half and remain in the hunt for their first league title since 1998.

But one thing is for certain. There is a tougher second half that awaits the Blue Streaks and they will need a strong showing in order to be eligible for their first playoff appearance since 2007.

Through five games, the Lake offense was averaging 26 points a game while the defense has only allowed 14.4 a game.


Sitting with a 4-1 record (2-1 Federal), head coach Jeff Durbin was elated by how far his team has come despite the adversity they encountered in their first five games. “We have played some football that has been fundamental and that means not turning the ball over and keeping other teams out of the end zone,” he said.


Defensively, the Blue Streaks have held their own for the most part in only allowing nine touchdowns. The offense is a bit of a concern. After scoring 44 points against Green, their point output has dwindled from scoring 34 against Hudson to 21 points against Canton McKinley and Youngstown Boardman before hitting rock bottom with 10 against North Canton Hoover in an ugly 24-10 turnover-filled loss that left the football team storming out of North Canton Memorial Stadium frustrated.


Why has the offensive point production dwindled since the first week of the season? “It really is a combination of key turnovers and injuries. And those are not giving us a chance,” Durbin responded. If there are two games that stand out during the first half of the season, it is the Blue Streaks defensive domination of Canton McKinley and Youngstown Boardman, two very physical football teams with balanced offenses. Lake jumped out to a stunning 14-0 lead against the Bulldogs and held them off 21-14 and stonewalled the Spartans at the corner in a 21-3 decision in which the defense was an infinite red light against the Boardman offense. “We played solid defense in both of those games especially in the red zone and we did not make any mistakes,” Durbin said of the two triumphs.


Lake looks to get back on track Friday night at Perry Stadium against a vastly improved Panthers team and first-year head football coach Keith Boedicker. No longer running the wing-T offense that former head coaches Keith Wakefield and John Miller executed to perfection during their tenures, that has not stopped the Panthers from racking up points at free will. Last year, the Blue Streaks dented Perry for a 35-7 victory. That will be on the minds of the Panthers Friday night as both teams are determined to get back in the win column after their respective losses.


But this game is meaningful because the losing team will have an uphill climb to the league title as both possess identical 4-1 records (2-1 Federal). “Coach Boedicker has run an effective offense and they are very effective throwing and running the ball. Not preparing for the wing-T is not as hard as trying to prepare for it, we just have a different offense to stop,” Durbin cautioned. “The key to this game will be tackling and we cannot give up the big play." The last two times at Perry Stadium in 2006 and 2008, the Panthers have used solid defense to churn out wins of 14-7 and recently 30-27.


With this game jumpstarting the second half, it may go a long way into determining if Lake will make a run for the playoffs. But Durbin knows that answer lies within the well-being of his team.  “We have to get healthy and stay healthy. We need to have guys create turnovers and give our offense a chance on the field. And we must improve in the kicking game,” he said. It is one thing for Lake to be given a challenging schedule. It will be another if they can put together a strong second half and make a run for the Division II state playoffs.


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