Don’t pass on Lakeview

Rogers, 6-1 Bulldogs present balanced attack on foes

Tribune Chronicle / Joe Simon Lakeview quarterback Zach Rogers, center, takes a snap during this year’s game against Liberty. Rogers and the Bulldogs have amassed a 6-1 record this season.

CORTLAND — It’s easy to point to Zach Rogers when analyzing Lakeview’s 6-1 start to the season.

The senior is a three-year starter who puts up gaudy statistics on a regular basis. He currently has 12 touchdowns (just two interceptions) to go along with 1,228 passing yards and a 60-percent completion percentage.

At roughly 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, Rogers is a highly recruited player and one of the leaders for the Bulldogs. But Rogers was equally effective last year, yet Lakeview finished 6-4 and missed out on the playoffs — an uncommon finish for longtime coach Tom Pavlansky. This season, there is a lot more to worry about than just Rogers.

“We try to be balanced and make people defend the whole field,” said Pavlansky, now in his 19th season leading Lakeview. “The run game is really important to us, and we know that if we want to be successful, we have to be able to run the football. And with Zach being at quarterback, and the weapons we have on the outside, that helps complement the run game as well.”

Defending the Bulldogs is no fun.

Six different players have scored rushing touchdowns and another seven on receiving. Tony Crish powers the rushing attack with 315 yards and four TDs (three others have at least 100 yards), and Evan Adair and Drew Munno are Rogers’ top targets (Adair has 314 yards, 10 catches and 3 TDs, and Munno has 19 receptions, 271 yards and 1 TD). The offensive line is big and physical, and then there’s Rogers, a strong-armed QB who blends his physical strengths with a high football IQ.

“That puts a lot of stress on a defense,” said Pavlansky of the multi-faceted offense. “As an offense, we want to try to apply pressure on a defense, whether it be by tempo or formation and by distributing the ball to the guys who we know positive plays can come out of it.”

It’s most definitely not all about the skill players either.

A school known for its powerful front five is again strong and fundamentally sound on the line. Players like Alec Bartholomew (senior captain), Collin Dales, Thad Evans, Danny Brammer and Case Shorts have paved the way for the Bulldogs.

“They’re an experienced crew,” Pavlansky said. “They’re all senior starters right now. They’ve played a lot of football, and they’ve put a lot of time in the offseason and on the practice field for us. They’ve all gotten better and taken advantage of the opportunity.”

Maybe the biggest change from last year is on defense.

The Bulldogs, now on a six-game winning streak, allowed 25 points per game last year, giving up 40 or more points to three different teams. That didn’t sit well with Pavlansky, whose teams have put together some stout defenses over the years. He said experience and a different attitude made a big difference (they’re allowing 11.1 points this season).

“Seven of our front eight were all guys who played a good amount last year,” he said. “Having that nucleus there is significant. Last year, we didn’t stop too many folks, to be honest. This year we’re a little bit better. I don’t think we’re as good as we need to be just yet, but our kids want to, and they’re really working hard.”

Continuing to develop is imperative for a Lakeview team that not only plays in a stacked Division IV, Region 13, but also has two of its toughest opponents upcoming in Poland (this Friday) and Struthers in Week 10.

Pavlansky, like many coaches, does his best not to look ahead, but that doesn’t mean he and Lakeview don’t understand the situation.

“Our guys are human, and I’m sure their minds might wander down the road,” Pavlansky said, “but we do our best to reel them in and keep them focused.”