By Dan Walk
Whenever Lakeview quarterback Zach Bigley touched the ball, the outcome was excellent for the Sailors during their District 10 Class A quarterfinal game against Eisenhower on Friday in Warren. Bigley galloped for three touchdowns and threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to help the Sailors win going away, 36-6.
Bigley ran for 156 yards on six attempts and completed all three of his pass attempts for 81 yards during his big night. But the game wasn’t all Bigley – the Lakeview defense recovered three fumbles and intercepted two passes to advance to the district semifinals to face Region 1 rival Sharpsville, which beat Cochranton 42-6 on Friday.
Friday’s game was much different from Lakeview (7-4) and Eisenhower’s previous meeting in 2011. The Sailors won last year's game 24-19, but Eisenhower (8-3) didn’t score until trailing 22-0 in the third quarter yesterday.
“It’s nice because I knew coming in that Eisenhower had a good team,” Lakeview head coach Dan York said. “We played them the last two years. We were very fortunate to win by one score (last year). I didn’t really expect this.”
Blake Reddick added 147 yards on 25 carries and Nate Kokoski totaled 58 yards on 14 attempts. But it was Bigley who managed the big plays. His touchdown runs were from 19, 72 and 64 yards away for the Sailors, who are the No. 4 team out of Region 1.
“It was unbelievable,” Kokoski said. “Seeing our quarterback being able to utilize the other team biting on me and Blake and see him take it down field and score is just the greatest feeling in the world.”
Region 2 champion Eisenhower shot itself in the foot all game long. John Pascuzzi, one of District 10’s leading rushers in 2012, lost three fumbles and was held to 75 yards on 15 carries.
“That was the key because Mercer and Conneaut, the two teams that beat Eisenhower this season, held him to under 100 yards rushing,” Kokoski said. “This week during practice we focused on him and shutting him down.”
Bigley’s 19-yarder capped Lakeview’s first scoring drive, which amassed 53 yards on six plays. Pascuzzi then fumbled twice during a 31-yard run on Eisenhower’s ensuing drive and the Sailors pounced on the second bobble.
Eight Lakeview plays later and Bigley hooked up with Brandon Rice for a 35-yard touchdown pass on third-and-six.
Eisenhower appeared to put together its first scoring drive late in the second quarter, but a huge hit at the 11-yard line by Lakeview’s Sam Breese led to Pascuzzi’s second lost fumble. The Sailors recovered and led 16-0 at the break.
“I think our defense was bigger than our offense tonight,” Bigley said.
Eisenhower recovered an onside kick to start the second half but Zach Van Dusen’s interception of Aaron Lundmark gave Lakeview the ball back.
Three Lakeview plays later, Bigley went right, bounced off an ankle tackle attempt and raced to the left for a 72-yard touchdown to make it 22-0 Sailors.
Eisenhower’s only touchdown was scored by Pascuzzi from a yard away, but the Sailors came right back with a six-play, 50-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard TD run by Kokoski.
Eisenhower moved the ball down to Lakeview’s 21 before turning it over on downs. That’s when Lakeview put together its final scoring drive. This one took seven plays and was finished off by Bigley’s 64-yard jaunt down the left side.
“He looks a little faster on turf,” York said about Bigley. “Maybe we can talk to our athletic director about putting turf in. It helps us a little bit.”
Rice intercepted a Lundmark pass on the next Eisenhower drive before the Sailors ran the clock out.
Lakeview is hungry after its 42-0 loss on Oct. 19 to Sharpsville, which was last year’s District 10 Class A champion. The winner of next week’s game advances to the district title game.
“I really want that game back,” Kokoski said. “That’s a game I took very personally and I think that if we can come out and play like we did the last two weeks, I think we can give Sharpsville a run for their money.”