Football: Lakers fall to Wildcats

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York's Ashton Tracy and Lake Region's Noah Neal collide.

NAPLES—Despite yet another impressive performance by runningback Andrew Douglass – not to mention strong play by a number of his teammates – the Lakers couldn’t wring a win from visiting York on Friday night, Oct. 6. Doing so would’ve been upstart Lake Region’s biggest take of the season so far, but after falling 27-13 to the Wildcats, they’ll have to battle for a better result in weeks seven and eight.

“This was our first real challenge since the first week,” said Lakers head coach Brian Jahna. “A team that was going to be really physical with us. So I was interested to see how we would respond to that. I think we lost in terms of some football stuff, but I felt like our guys did not turn it in – and I wasn’t sure whether they would or not…I don’t think we really lost the effort tonight.”

Lake Region began the game in possession, but QB Derek Mondville threw an early interception; York returned the pick roughly 40 yards and then settled into their first scoring drive of the evening, shortly going up 6-0.

The Lakers battled on their follow-up series, Douglass stringing together a number of short pushes, but a couple of illegal motion penalties drained their slow-but-sure momentum and forced them to punt from their own 45.

Likewise, the ‘Cats failed to capitalize on their next opportunity, which ended after QB Payton Small completed a pass to wide receiver Riley Linn: Linn went down, but before the play ended, Laker Eric Wilton stripped him of the ball, generating a turnover.

From there, Lake Region determinedly tied things up: Having reclaimed possession deep in ‘Cats territory, they inched forward on running by Mondville, Douglass and Brandon Sargent, finally reaching third and goal at York’s one. Mondville capped the drive. The team’s attempt at a two-point conversion fell short, however. 6-6.

York scored again on the ensuing series, which culminated in a couple Jake Martin runs, one for 15 that brought the ‘Cats to first and goal at the Lakers’ two, and another that carried them into the end zone. Martin added the PAT kick for 13-6.

York tallied their next TD early in the fourth, after Lake Region unsuccessfully tried their hand (not to mention their luck) at fourth and four from York’s 48. The ‘Cats thus took over on downs, and Martin soon hashed another seven for them. 20-6.

Jahna complimented the opposition lineup. “They have great athletes running the ball,” he said. “Payton Small is a tremendous athlete at quarterback; throwing the ball is just a part of what he does. But the real piece is how they block: They get men on men quickly, and if you don’t attack it hard, then you’re going to get sealed. As soon as you start getting tired and a little bit lazy, then you get blocked.”

Now two scores behind, the Lakers needed to attack a bit more aggressively on their follow-up possession; unfortunately, York was ready for it. Under pressure on first and 10 from Lake Region’s own 19, Mondville threw another interception, this one to York’s Riley Linn, a giveaway the ‘Cats quickly converted into seven more Martin points.

“It’s definitely a backbreaker in terms of, you have some momentum or trying to gain some momentum, and that happens,” Jahna said of his boys’ second turnover. “Now, not only do you not have the ball, but they have the ball in pretty good territory. We knew, coming in, that they were a very good pass-defense team. We were a little concerned about that; I talked a lot about it, gameplanned specifically around it, and they still picked two on us.”

“But the second piece is, you become really limited when you can’t [pass],” Jahna said. “So that really kind of affects what you’re able to do offensively. That’s really kind of the bigger piece; you start to become a little one-dimensional. That makes it tough.”

York’s rapid-fire pair of TDs may have nailed the Lakers’ collective coffin closed, but it didn’t break their spirits. Lake Region recovered nicely from the blow, and spent the next several minutes methodically moving the ball upfield from their own 13. Sargent, Douglass and Mondville all contributed critical runs, and Mondville added a crisp, 14-yard hookup over the top with True Meyers. Douglass scored the TD from third and goal at York’s one, and Paul Walker notched the PAT kick. 27-13.

That, however, would be all she wrote. Little time remained, and the ‘Cats eventually were able to simply kneel away the remainder of the clock.

Regardless of Friday’s outcome, Jahna is delighted with where the team is at; they haven’t had much success in recent years, and are clearly heading in the right direction. “I’m incredibly happy with them. We’ve had to, kind of, learn how to be a team that’s winning a little bit. Each game’s come with its own challenges, and we’ve had to learn how to have a lead and stick with it; we’ve had to learn how to keep our focus…so I’m proud of how they’ve come along with that.”

Jahna praised a handful of his players, starting with Douglass. “Andrew had another great game; he came in with about 700 yards rushing. He really had to grind it tonight, so he didn’t have some of the breakaways. That speaks to his maturity and his willingness to be physical. Brandon did a great job – he was a little banged up; we had to move a lot of people around throughout the week, just because the injuries were starting to mount up. The line, at times, played well. Mark Mayo played well on the line. We did let some guys slip through, which was unfortunate.”

“We don’t have the depth that some of the other teams have,” Jahna said, “so as soon as one of your starters goes down, then you have to start playing musical chairs. That’s where it gets really difficult. Our starting right guard was going to be a starting runningback up until Wednesday.”

The Lakers, now 4-2 after a great run through the first half of the season, currently sit in sixth place in C South, a slot back from Gardiner (1-5) and a slot ahead of Morse (4-1). Lake Region travels to the latter of those two schools on Friday the 13th, then to Poland (10th in D South at 0-6) a week later.

Adam Birt can be reached at abirt@keepmecurrent.com. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME

York’s Ashton Tracy and Lake Region’s Noah Neal collide.

Brandon Sargent carries for the Lakers.

Andrew Douglass runs for the Lakers vs. visiting York.

Lake Region defender Isaac Holland wraps up Wildcats QB Payton Small, on the run with the ball.

Derek Mondville runs a QB-keeper for the Lakers.

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