Lakeview High linebacker Clint Hess had the look of a champion after the Bulldogs shut down Salem 21-0 to capture the All-American Conference White Tier championship on Friday night.
Hess played like one too.
The three-year letterman led a Lakeview defense that harassed, hurried, frustrated and shut down Salem quarterback Trent Toothman and the high-powered Quaker offense.
If defense wins championships, Lakeview’s defensive game plan was pure gold.
“This feels great,” said Hess. “The first AAC championship in Lakeview history. We knew it was going to be a real tough game but we prevailed.
“The game plan was to shut down Toothman and their great receivers. We worked on it all week and it paid off.”
Salem came into the championship contest averaging nearly 30 points a contest and over 352 yards of offense.
Lakeview (7-2, 4-0) was more than equal to the task as they kept the Quakers out of the end zone.
“Its all about the kids,” said Lakeview coach Tom Pavlansky. “Players win games. Players make the big plays. They are the ones that won this game for us.
“We’re extremely proud to be AAC champions. We think it is a very competitive conference and we think it is a heck of an achievement.”
The win should boost Lakeview’s chances of making the playoffs as well, as the Bulldogs entered the game in the ninth spot in Division III, Region 13, and will get plenty of points for defeating the Quakers.
Salem’s playoff hopes took a hit as they entered the game in seventh place in Division III, Region 11 and their chances could hinge on next week’s game against East Liverpool.
“This was a disappointing loss for us,” said Salem coach Mike Kopachy. “They had a lot of motivation coming into the game. Last year we celebrated on their field and now this year they celebrate on our field.
“We have to regroup and come to play next week if we want to extend our season and I know our kids will.”
Lakeview took the game to the Quakers (7-2, 3-2) right from the start following a Salem punt.
The Bulldogs drove 65 yards in 15 plays behind the leadership of quarterback Anthony Franco.
Franco led the offense all game with his running and passing and numerous clutch plays.
It was receiver Dan Marhulik that scored the game’s first touchdown on that long drive when he came around to take a handoff on a sweep and raced around right end for a 8-yard score.
Franco got the Bulldogs on the board again right before half when he hooked up with Elijah Henderson on a fade route in the back of the end zone for a 16-yard scoring play.
Franco completed 12 of 24 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 37 yards on 10 carries and scored a touchdown on the ground as well.
Salem had several opportunities in the second half to get back in the game but turnovers, penalties and strong plays by Hess thwarted any comeback.
Toothman did manage to throw for 203 yards but most of those yards came when Lakeview was already in control of the game.
The Bulldogs put the game away with a 5-yard scoring run by Franco at the end of the third quarter.