Lakeview rolls Struthers, wins AAC White title
By MIKE McLAIN
When the Struthers Wildcats failed to score after receiving an early gift, there was a sense they might regret it.
The Lakeview Bulldogs have been playing too well since a loss to the Howland Tigers on opening night. The Wildcats’ inability to score after a fumble recovery provided an opening that Lakeview took advantage of in cruising to a 28-8 win in an All-American Conference White Tier game Friday at Don Richards Memorial Field.
The Bulldogs shook off a slow start offensively to take a 14-0 halftime lead. They stretched the lead to 21-0 in the third quarter before the Wildcats cut it to 21-8, but Lakeview had no problems securing the win.
In addition to failing to take an early lead, the Wildcats hurt their cause by losing three fumbles.
“You have to get breaks going your way when you’re playing a team like that, let alone when you put in on the ground,” Wildcats coach Curt Kuntz said. “They’re too well-coached. They make you drive the field, take away big plays and hope you make a mistake. Unless you get a turnover on your end or make a big play, it’s hard to go the length of the field.”
The win was historic for the Bulldogs, who finished the regular season 9-1 and clinched the White Tier championship with a 6-0 record. Lakeview, which entered play fourth in the Division IV, Region 13 computer standings, will host its first-ever playoff game Friday.
Lakeview players posed for pictures outside the locker room. The mood inside was of pride for not only what had just transpired but for the entire season.
“It means a lot to the program and the community,” senior quarterback Zach Rogers said. “I know we’re going to have a lot of people here supporting us. It’s amazing to have a home game for the first time and to be a part of it.”
The Wildcats (7-3 and 4-2 in the White Tier) traveled home knowing it’s likely they’ll also have a spot in the Region 13 playoffs. Struthers entered play sixth in Region 13.
“We’ve got to get better,” Kuntz said. “We’re into week 11. We have to clean up stuff because now everyone is on the same level.”
Struthers was in business early when Lakeview’s J.D. Lewis fumbled on the opening possession of play. The Wildcats marched from their 38 to the Bulldogs’ 26, but Lakeview’s defense stiffened and stopped Willie Mitchell for a loss of 2 yards on fourth down from the 18.
The Bulldogs started rolling offensively in the second quarter with a 55-yard drive that led to a 2-yard touchdown run by Evan Adair. Noah Busefink kicked the extra point.
Lakeview had a 14-0 halftime lead on a 31-yard screen pass from Rogers to Tony Crish.
The Bulldogs took firm control late in the third quarter on a 5-yard touchdown run by Adair. Busefink’s point-after kick put Lakeview up by 21 points.
The Wildcats then staged their best drive of the game, marching 62 yards on nine plays to score on a 5-yard pass from J.D. Hall to Nate Richards with 5.3 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Hall passed to Tommy Kopnicky for the extra two points.
Lakeview closed the scoring in the fourth period when Dakota Whitt powered in from the 5.
The look of pride on the face of Bulldogs coach Tom Pavlansky was evident.
“Our kids have come ready to play the last 12 weeks, including two scrimmages and 10 games,” Pavlansky said. “We’ll be ready to play next week.”