By Frank Foreman
NEW WILMINGTON —
Surrounded by screaming fans and hugs from family and friends, the scene at midfield following Lakeview’s 27-0 win over Sharpsville Friday night was something head coach Dan York and an entire community have waited a very long time for.
When the Sailors needed to play their best football, they once again answered the call, putting an exclamation point on a phenomenal season by winning the District 10 Class A championship, the first in the school’s history.
The only thing harder than moving the ball on Lakeview’s stellar defense was trying to pry superstar running back Blake Reddick away from adoring fans following the game. When the senior was finally able to reflect on the win, perhaps his four words best sum up an entire season of hard work and perseverance.
“What’s better than this?” Reddick said.
Judging from the post-game celebration as the Lakeview student body poured onto the field, not much.
“It’s great. It feels good for the whole school and for these kids,” York said. “There are a lot of happy, smiling faces. It’s a beautiful thing.”
If the end result of a 27-point victory over former Class A champ was beautiful, than how the Sailors accomplished that goal was a work of art.
Reddick scored three touchdowns in the win, and in the process set the all-time rushing record for District 10.
Not a bad day at the office.
“It feels great. I know I’ll be remembered forever, and this team will be remembered forever in Lakeview history,” Reddick said.
As the temperature continued to drop, and as pockets of rain came and went, it appeared as if Lakeview slowly got better throughout the game.
Things started off great for Lakeview, as the Blue Devils overshot their punter with a bad snap on the ensuing drive and handed over possession to the Sailors at the 5 yard-line to start the game.
Unfortunately for Lakeview, that golden opportunity resulted in zero points.
Tough defense was the theme throughout the night for both teams, but as he has done all season, Reddick made the first splash of the contest.
Following an interception by Reddick, Lakeview set up shop at the Sharpsville 33 yard-line. Four plays later, Reddick took a handoff up the middle and went untouched for a 22-yard touchdown run with 3:31 left in the first half to give the Sailors a 7-0 lead.
Lakeview’s defense continually stuffed the Blue Devils’ ground game, never allowing Sharpsville to get going offensively.
After the Sailors took a 7-0 lead into halftime, the Lakeview defense forced a punt on Sharpsville’s opening drive of the second half, and forced a fumble on the Blue Devils’ next possession when Marquis Spence made a brilliant open-field tackle to knock the ball loose, giving the Sailors the ball with great field position.
Lakeview took advantage of the turnover. On the first play of the drive, Reddick ran for a 23-yard gain which broke the rushing record. Later he cut to the outside and scored on a six-yard scamper to make it 14-0.
That’s when York could begin to see what was unfolding in front of him.
“When we got 14 points, and with the way the weather was going, I knew 14 was pretty good,” York said.
Though 14 points proved to be plenty, the Lakeview defense wasn’t done showcasing just how good it has been all season. On the very first play on Sharpsville’s next possession, the Blue Devils fumbled, and senior captain Sam Breese recovered, giving Lakeview an opportunity to land the final blow.
And naturally, it was Reddick that punched it in on a 15-yard run four plays later to make it 20-0.
As the Sailors’ offense continued to score, it was Lakeview’s defense that continually matched its counterpart, forcing another three-and-out on the ensuing drive.
Lakeview took back possession and killed nearly 10 minutes of clock on a 14-play drive that ended with a Spence 3-yard touchdown run up the gut to cap off a special night for Lakeview.
“This was our goal forever, and we weren’t going to let this slip away from us,” Breese said, who made tackle after tackle to lead the Sailors. “We’re very proud of our defense.”
Reddick has plenty to be proud of as well, finishing the night with 140 yards on 23 carries.
When Reddick is continually asked about his record-breaking season, he often deflects the attention to his offensive line and receivers for the tremendous blocking they provide. Those same offensive lineman have no problem deflecting the accolades back to the running back that has been very good for a very long time.
“We knew he could do it,” Breese said of Reddick breaking the rushing record. “The first time he stepped on a football field, we knew he was something special. We just wanted to help him get there.”
When Lakeview failed to convert an early Sharpsville miscue into points, York may have been the calmest person in New Wilmington. While many saw his team miss out on a great opportunity, York knew they wouldn’t let it get the best of them.
“They knew how important this game was,” York said of his team. “Sharpsville could have come out and scored the first 14 points and these kids would have kept fighting.”
While it accomplished something that had never been done before in the school’s history, the Sailors were indeed enjoying the moment. But they also don’t want the ride to end there. There is still more football to play, and for Breese, there’s plenty of time to celebrate later. It’s time to get ready for states.
“We can’t let this be the last thing,” Breese said. “This was one of our biggest goals, but we have to keep our mind set on what’s ahead of us next week.”
Spoken like a champion.