By Pete Chiodo
November 9, 2012 7:00 a.m. MEADVILLE —
When the Lakeview and Eisenhower football teams meet in tonight’s District 10 Class A quarterfinal playoff game, they will not be doing so as perfect strangers. In fact, they should know each other pretty well by this point.
For one thing, the Sailors and the Knights — who will face off tonight at 7 at Warren’s War Memorial Field — have played each other each of the previous two years.
The 2010 meeting was a lopsided victory for Lakeview, which won it 48-13. But last season’s Week 7 meeting was a much closer affair. Lakeview managed to pull out a 24-19 win with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Zach Bigley to Zach Van Dusen with just 36 seconds remaining.
Of course, last year’s meeting wouldn’t matter so much if it weren’t for the fact that both teams are playing with much the same personnel as a season ago.
“They returned all their guys. We returned all our guys,” said Eisenhower head coach Jim Penley. “And that’s probably the reason both teams have improved from last year. We’ve had a really good year. And they’ve had a really good year, considering the region they play in.”
Indeed, Eisenhower has gone from an 0-10 team in 2010 to a 3-7 group last year to an 8-2 squad and Region 2 champion this time around.
Lakeview has also had an improved season in 2012. A year ago, the Sailors finished 4-5. This year they are 6-4 and advanced to the playoffs as Region 1’s fourth seed, which is no easy task.
“Region 1 is a buzzsaw, no ifs, ands or buts,” said Penley. “With the type of schedule Lakeview has to play, for them to be where they are with Sharpsville, Farrell and West Middlesex above them, that’s nothing to feel bad about there.”
How does he know? Well, both of Eisenhower’s two losses were to Region 1 teams. The Knights opened the season with a 33-7 loss to Mercer. Later, they were defeated by Class AAA Region 1 squad Conneaut, 41-21.
Lakeview is familiar with Eisenhower’s competitors as well. The Sailors are 3-0 against Region 2 teams this year. They opened the season with a 30-8 win over Union City. They also posted a 22-16 win over Cochranton. And the Sailors’ final regular season game was a 56-0 romp over Iroquois. And Cochranton and Iroquois are both playoff teams this season.
Yet another way that Lakeview and Eisenhower have insight into the other is that both teams run the I formation on offense.
“We can run a lot of our plays at practice,” said Lakeview head coach Dan York. “It’s the same stuff they run, same blocking schemes and everything. We’re familiar with them.”
With those formations, both teams have produced a running back that has rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season.
For Lakeview, that’s junior Blake Reddick. He’s among District 10’s top ball carriers, collecting 1,710 yards and 14 touchdowns on 234 carries.
For Eisenhower, that’s senior John Pascuzzi. He’s carried the ball 195 times for 1,530 yards and 16 touchdowns.
The Knights will also hand the ball off to Alex Johnson, who has 64 carries for 524 yards and nine touchdowns. And they have a potent passing attack. Quarterback Aaron Lundmark is 56-for-113 for 1,061 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions this season.
“The only thing I hope to have an advantage with is that we have so many different guys that will touch the football,” said Penley. “We have seven different guys that have over 100 yards rushing. So, we’re able to throw 1,000 yards, have seven rushers, and — oh, by the way — Pascuzzi is having a really good year. If we do have an advantage it would be the sheer number of people we can utilize in the game.”
Lakeview’s advantage, as Penley sees it, is its size and physicality.
“They’re huge and they’re physical,” he said. “They run the ball as many times as they can — classic coach York. Their front line is as big you can find in single-A. And obviously their skill guys are tremendous.”
The Sailors’ might up in front lines has taken a number of hits due to injuries. And even some of the skill guys have been nursing some dings.
“It’s a long list of kids,” said York. “I’m just here thinking, ‘Who else missed practice today? ... Oh yeah, him too.’”
Even with the injuries, though, “The kids seem kind of upbeat about this,” York said. “We’re familiar with Eisenhower. They’ve seen what we do. We’ve seen what they do.
“We know we’ve got a battle in front of us.”