Lakeview, Whitt hold off Howland
CORTLAND — Show up, and have more athletes and experienced coaches, and there’s a good chance that team earns a victory.
Wins, especially in Week 1, are not that easy. It never is.
Ask Lakeview football coach Tom Pavlansky after Friday’s 14-9 season-opening victory over Howland.
“Week 1 is so unique to the season,” he said. “Getting the first one, especially in Week 1, is significant. I don’t care who you’re playing. Winning is just not easy. We go against a well-coached team, a team that plays hard, a team that has a lot of pride. It makes for a challenge. That’s why I couldn’t be more proud of our guys.”
Both teams, dealing with losses of seniors from the 2017 season, were meandering through the first quarter in a scoreless tie. A couple of drops, penalties and other miscues plagued both teams as they tried to establish their respective offensive footprints.
Lakeview then found something it longed to have — a running game. Senior Dakota Whitt, who is splitting time at quarterback with junior Noah Olejnik, showed his prowess on the turf with 25 carries for 116 yards and two touchdowns. Both scores were in the second quarter as the Bulldogs took a 14-0 advantage into halftime.
“It felt great running the ball, doing what I could for the team,” Whitt said.
The first drive started at the Howland 23 after a 23-yard punt return from Andrew Oakes. It took six plays, capped by a 4-yard touchdown run by Whitt up the middle of the Tigers defense, for a 7-0 advantage with 2:55 before intermission.
Lakeview then held Howland to a three-and-out. The Bulldogs took possession again and scored with 12.6 seconds left in the second quarter on a Whitt 2-yard touchdown run.
“He wants to have his career-best year,” Pavlansky said. “Dakota, like a lot of our guys, likes the ball in (his) hands. When the ball is in his hands, he’s a threat. Dakota, last year, was more of a factor defensively than offensively. We didn’t have a doubt what he could do.”
The offense was going in the right direction.
“We settled in,” Pavlansky said. “We had a lot of guys up front, especially in the o-line that are playing for the first time. I think they got settled in and we felt more comfortable, more confident, got the jitters out of the way. It led to success.
“When the ball is in the hands of our skill guys, we think we have a solid group back there that can get 4 yards a play.”
Howland struggled as they had eight carries for 1 yard at halftime. The Tigers ended with 23 carries for 41 yards.
“We have to establish a run game,” Howland coach Steve Boyle said. “If we don’t do that, it’s going to be a long season. We have to tackle better.”
In the air, Howland was 10 of 30 for 110 yards and one touchdown, which came with about 1 minute remaining.
Senior quarterback Jordan Fronzaglio found senior Nathan Barrett over the middle for a 14-yard touchdown. The ensuing two-point pass to cut the game to a three-point spread went in and out of the receiver’s hands. It was a recurring theme for the Tigers, who had more than a half-dozen drops.
The onside kick went out of bounds near midfield. From there, Lakeview ran out the clock.
“We did drop the ball quite a bit, but I wish we didn’t have to throw the ball as much,” said Boyle, whose team hosts Boardman this Friday. “It’s part of the game. and we have to be good in all aspects.”
Lakeview needs to improve as well. The Bulldogs had nine penalties for 88 yards, including a couple of consecutive holding calls and personal fouls in the second half.
“That’s uncharacteristic of us, but we will get it corrected,” Pavlansky said. “Our guys continue to work hard at practice. They know it’s the most important thing we do.”
It’s all in preparation for Week 2 at Liberty.