By Frank Foreman
Two teams from opposite ends of the spectrum clash tonight at Wilmington High School, when the No. 1-seeded Lakeview Sailors take on the No. 4-seeded Maplewood Tigers at 7 p.m.
The difference between the two schools isn’t necessarily talent, but more on the experience end. Lakeview (9-1) is a veteran group led by District 10’s leading rusher Blake Reddick, while the Tigers (5-5) are a young squad that have had many players see their first varsity time on the field this season.
Reddick, a senior, has been the cream of the crop in a district that finished the regular season with 17 1,000-yard rushers. He’s fast, shifty, and it’s no secret that he will be the star of the show tonight for the Sailors.
Reddick needs 86 yards and three touchdowns to break both single-season records held by Deke Ison. Ison ran for 2,277 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2001. Reddick has already broken Ison’s career marks in both categories.
“You need more than one guy to bring him down,” Maplewood head coach Bryan Borkovich said. “He runs hard and has great vision. We have to make sure we gang tackle, and we can’t let him get out into space.”
Reddick has been nearly unstoppable this season, and continues to impress his own head coach, Dan York.
“He’s a good runner and is patient. He cuts real well,” York said. “I can’t say enough good things about him.”
Borkovich is aware that the ball is going to Reddick, but so were the other nine teams Lakeview defeated in 2013.
Needless to say, it’s going to be a big challenge for Maplewood to slow Reddick down, but it’s a challenge that the Tigers are more than happy to oblige.
“The big thing is for us not to get overwhelmed early. We have to understand that we are playing a good opponent, and we need to play good football for 48 minutes,” Borkovich said on what his team needs to do tonight in order to win. “This is new to them. Hopefully, they step up and rise to the occasion. I think they will.”
Also posing a threat for Maplewood is Sailors’ quarterback Zack Bigley, a player who may not post the biggest numbers, but runs the offense the way York likes it. Unfortunately for Lakeview, Bigley is dealing with an ankle injury and missed a game two weeks ago against West Middlesex. Bigley is in line to start tonight, but may see limited action with fellow senior Zack Van Dusen taking over under center as he did two weeks ago.
“Van Dusen has filled in admirably,” York said. “Bigley played the whole game last week (against Iroquois), but he was limited in the things he did. It’s not easy losing your starting quarterback who has been doing it for a long time.”
Injuries are a part of every team this late in the year, and that holds true for Maplewood. Starting running back Miller Peters, a sparkplug for the Tigers that makes things happen with the ball in his hands, has missed the last two weeks due to injury, but Borkovich said the junior will be on the field and ready to go tonight.
“He should be good to go. This will be the first time we have everyone on the field at the same time since (Week 8),” Borkovich said. “Peters is such a leader, and the kids look up to him. He makes everyone else on the field more comfortable when he’s out there.”
Experience certainly falls in favor of Lakeview, a group that York said is excited, but not overly excited. For Maplewood, there’s a good understanding entering the game that the Tigers are the clear underdog, but are ready to relish the role.
“Nobody seems to be too nervous,” Borkovich said. “Like the kids have said, we have nothing to lose. Lakeview is the No. 1 seed, and that’s how we’re going into it. If things don’t go our way, it will give this young team drive for next year to be in a better position to move on. If we do move on, that’s great experience against a great opponent. Either way, it helps the program move forward in general.”