Knight, Jefferson prove too much for Lakeview

JEFFERSON – Lakeview coach Tom Pavlansky called Jefferson’s Jeremiah Knight one of the best players his Bulldogs will have seen all season long.

The senior running back earned that praise Friday night at Falcon Pride Stadium, as Knight accrued 374 yards rushing en route to a five-touchdown performance during Jefferson’s 48-27 victory in an All-American Conference, White Tier game.

It started on the Falcons’ first play from scrimmage, with Knight breaking one tackle at the first level before scampering for a 68-yard touchdown. The 5-foot-10, 200-pound senior followed that up with the a 93-yard run on Jefferson’s second offensive play of the game at the 11:37 mark in the second quarter to give the Falcons (3-3, 2-2 AAC White) a 14-7 lead.

Knight’s performance came one week after Ashtabula County’s all-time leading rusher went for 368 yards in a win over Girard.

“He’s one of the best we’ve faced, that’s for sure,” Pavlansky said of Knight. “You can tell football matters to him, he cares and he’s a really, really good football player.”

On the other side of the ball, the Bulldogs kept up with Knight and the Falcons’ rushing attack until late in the third quarter when Jefferson burst the game wide open.

Part of the reason Lakeview struggled to hang with the Falcons after that point was it left some points on the field. Twice in the game the Bulldogs drove inside the Jefferson 10-yard line, only to come away with no points.

The first such instance came on the Bulldogs’ second drive of the game, when they went 61 yards on 15 plays and ate up 7:02 of the clock only to not be able to punch the ball into the end zone. That drive played a key role in how Lakeview dominated time of possession in the first half (17:26 to 5:38) and had more first downs than Jefferson (13 to six).

The second came early in the fourth quarter with Lakeside trailing, 35-21. The Bulldogs drove to the Jefferson 5 before quarterback Zach Rogers lost two yards on third down and then threw an incomplete pass on first down to turn the ball over.

“They (the Falcons) kept us out of the end zone when we got into the red zone,” Pavlansky said. “We didn’t convert, and when you get in the red zone, you have to capitalize on opportunities to score. In the first half, we left some opportunities there, and give them credit – (Jefferson) coach (Jimmy) Henson does a real good job with his kids, and his kids played hard and they were better.”

Although Knight ran rampant for much of the night, Lakeview had managed to slow him down at the beginning of the first half, with Knight losing one yard on his first four carries.

With the score tied at 21-21, though, the Falcons used other weapons to get down the field, beginning with J.J. Henson. The quarterback used a couple of draws and a passing play to get the ball to the Lakeview 25. On a third-and-12, Henson then found Knight over the middle of field, and Knight powered ahead for a 25-yard touchdown with 4:22 remaining in the third.

Jimmy Henson said that drive proved to be a critical point in the game.

“They were cramming the box to try to stop him, so we had to do some things to get them out of the box,” Henson said. “Jeremiah did a good job – we were running a lot of fakes to him to let J.J. open up and do some things.

“I thought that was a big key when we started mixing it up a little more and not just handing it off to Jeremiah.”

Leading the way for the Bulldogs offensively was running back duo Evan Adair and Tony Crish. Adair had the bigger first half, as 53 of his 57 yards came in the opening quarters, while Adair had two touchdowns (including one from 54 yards out to tie the game at 21-21 at the 7:28 mark in the third) en route to a 113-yard performance. Backup Elijah McMurdy added 60 yards in the fourth quarter.

For Pavlansky, the running game did enough to compete, but he said the offense missed out on too many chances in the end.

“I thought we ran the ball decent tonight,” Pavlansky said. “I thought we ran the ball well enough to win, but we just didn’t execute down the stretch. We were inside the 5-, 10-yard line three times and we don’t score, and we lose by three touchdowns.”