By Ryan Buck
The Lakeview High marching band capped off Friday’s Halloween halftime performance with a rendition and demonstration of Metallica’s heavy metal classic “Master of Puppets.”
The Bulldogs football team’s performance at Don Richards Stadium confirmed the irony. After allowing an early touchdown to All-American Conference National Division rival Liberty, Lakeview toyed with the Leopards en route to a 33-6 win.
Lakeview (6-3, 6-0) clinched a share of the conference title by holding Liberty’s freshman running back Lynn Bowden to 70 yards below his season average and mixing a power run game with Michael Mannella and timely passes from quarterback Angelo Marino.
“Michael Mannella did a phenomenal job for us, but it all started up front,” said Lakeview coach Tom Pavlansky, whose team has won all six conference games after an 0-3 start. “Those guys up front weren’t going to be denied.
“These guys have earned this opportunity and they weren’t going to let it slip through their fingers.”
On the game’s opening drive, the Bulldogs forced Liberty (6-3, 5-1) into a fourth-and-14 at the Lakeview 44. Bowden lined up in punt formation and rolled to his right. Cameron Clark released off the line and made a bobbling catch at the 20 before avoiding a tackle on his way to the end zone.
Lakeview responded effectively and methodically while taking advantage of Liberty’s miscues. Marino found Andrew Grove in the left flat for a 45-yard catch-and-run into Leopards’ territory. Mannella needed three plays to put them second-and-goal at the Leopards’ 2 where Marino ran it in to tie the game.
On fourth-and-one from the Lakeview, Justin Journey and Jacob Morrison dropped Bowden for no gain. Marino hit Sean Rein for 23 yards, then ran in from 12 yards out on the next play.
Lakeview got the ball back at the Leopards’ 28 when Bowden’s fourth-and-7 pass fell incomplete. It was one of seven failed fourth-down conversions on Liberty’s part and the visitors never punted.
“I wasn’t necessarily surprised, but everybody’s gotta do what they think is best for their team,” Pavlansky said.
Marino converted on third-and-7 then Mannella took an option-pitch 10 yards for a 19-6 lead.
“We knew what we had to do,” said Mannella, who finished with 114 yards rushing on 20 carries on a muddy field. “We prepared very well.”
Liberty again tried a fourth-down pass late in the half, but the Bulldogs failed to capitalize. No matter, Mannella and Marino drove them down to the 4 yard line and Marino hit Ryan Pishotti on a quick slant pattern to put Lakeview ahead 26-6 midway through the third quarter.
After Bowden was intercepted on fourth-and-6 at the Lakeview 30, the Lakeview offense went right back to work. Marino hit Grove to convert on third down, then Jake Pishotti ran in from 14 yards out on a jet sweep.
One year after the Leopards took the conference crown with a Week 9 win over Lakeview, the reversal of fortunes was not lost on the winners.
“It means a whole lot,” Mannella said. “Everyone’s excited and it’s a really good feeling.”