Written by Mark Griffin
Friday, 29 August 2008 08:06
There was only one direction for the Lake football team to go this season.
So far, so good.
Last Friday night, second-year coach Bob Abbey's squad came within one minute of posting a shutout in a 27-7 season-opening victory at Swanton.
"When there were four or five minutes left, the coaches and kids were thinking when was last time we had a shutout," Abbey said. "It's been a couple years. It's something you think about in the last few minutes of the game. We had rotated some kids in all night long and Swanton marched in there and put it in the end zone."
The Flyers, who watched the Bulldogs come from behind in the fourth quarter to beat them last season, has 32 sophomores through seniors on their roster this season. Against Swanton they started two sophomores and four seniors, and the rest were juniors. Everyone saw action on both sides of the ball except senior quarterback Mike Mathews.
"We have a good number of kids going both ways," Abbey said, "but we try to rotate more players in on the defensive side of the ball so they can keep some fresh legs."
Last season Lake suffered a number of key injuries that forced it to play young players in several positions.
Since then, especially during spring and summer conditioning, the Flyers made a commitment to get better.
"I was very pleased with the work ethic and the numbers we had," Abbey said. "We had eight kids that were at 100 percent attendance, who didn't miss a workout all summer. We had a number of kids who were at 80-85 percent attendance, so I was pleased with the effort the kids gave and the work they put in."
It all came to fruition against Swanton, a member of the Northwest Ohio Athletic League.
"We were hoping to run some option on them and see how they would react to the triple option," Abbey said. "We had a couple opportunities to hit a few big plays here and there. We didn't throw real well, but we were effective enough to open up the running lanes a little bit.
"We tried to stifle them defensively a little and make them have to throw the ball. We tried to run it and shorten the game up. It was hot and we hoped our summer conditioning would pay off in the second half, and I think it did."
Nick Mikels, a senior who was moved from receiver to tailback this season, rushed for more than 200 yards and scored twice against the Bulldogs.
"He really ran the ball hard," Abbey said. "We're pleased with what he's done since the middle of two-a-days. He's really played with more intensity and sort of a sense of urgency. He felt he could utilize his talent a little bit better."
Mathews also threw a long scoring pass to junior receiver Terry Tomanski, and sophomore fullback Carl Brown scored on a 1-yard run for Lake.
"Carl has worked real hard in the offseason," Abbey said. "We had hoped at the end of last season he would really commit himself, and he did. We're hoping for good things out of him."
After the game, Abbey said the coaches wanted the players to enjoy the victory. But they also wanted the players to realize what it took to break their losing streak.
"They were obviously very excited," the coach said. "What we tried to emphasize was, enjoy each and every win you get. And we emphasized the amount of work they put in during the offseason and equate that to wins on the field. I think they saw that Friday night."
By Monday afternoon, Abbey said, the players weren't dwelling on the win over Swanton. The Flyers were already focused on Friday night's meeting at home against rival Northwood, so Abbey was not expecting a letdown.
"We've never been in that position," he said. "Two years ago they were 1-9. A letdown comes from teams who have been winning. These kids don't know any better.
"Last year we talked about getting better each practice. That's what our focus has really been. When we came back out on Monday, our focus was to get better this week and get ready for Northwood. They had forgotten about the Swanton game."