HS football previews: Week 10
North Cobb Christian at Lakeview
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Jock Horner Field, Gainesville
Coaches: North Cobb Christian, Harry Miles; Lakeview Academy, Matthew Gruhn
Records: North Cobb Christian (3-4); Lakeview Academy (4-2)
Key players: North Cobb Christian, QB Alex Ho-on (6-3, 190 Sr.); QB/RB Kendall Crute (6-3, 185 Jr.); RB Daniel Galanos (Jr.). Lakeview Academy, QB/DB Ted Reynolds (6-1, 160 Sr.); RB/LB Caleb Faulkner (5-10, 170 Sr.); OL/DL Alex Oliver (6-1, 210 Sr.).
Prediction: LAKEVIEW ACADEMY. The Lions have outscored their last two opponents 79-6 and won’t look to slow down with a chance to clinch the program’s first winning season on the line.
Lakeview senior quarterback Ted Reynolds laughed when asked about his freshman football season.
“We didn’t win very much,” he said.
The 2009 Lakeview team went 1-8 — on the heels of a 1-7 season — their last year playing a region schedule. It was a time when the program struggled just to consistently field a 30-player team each season.
Three years later a record 40-player Lions team is just trying to not think about the history they have nearly reached.
“In our minds it’s just another game to prepare for,” Reynolds said. “But of course we know our record, and it would mean a lot to the program.
“This program’s young, and we’re just trying to do our part.”
This season, a record 17 seniors have formed the core of a Lions team (4-2) looking to take yet another step for a program that has gone 4-4 each of the past two seasons: A first ever winning season.
North Cobb Christian, Lakeview’s opponent at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Jock Horner Field in Gainesville, stands in the way of that record.
So the Lions are simply preparing for the game, trying to ignore the significance for the time being. Reynolds said the seniors know what it’s taken to get to this point, and they’re not going to forget all they’ve learned and endured on the cusp of history.
“We’ve worked hard for everything we’ve had to do,” Reynolds said. “We learned a lot that freshman year from the seniors about toughness, and Coach (Matthew) Gruhn has done a good job teaching us that when you get knocked down, you get up.”
And Gruhn is not about to look past a team like the Eagles, even if Lakeview Academy has won each of the last two meetings 49-21.
“They’ll look better coming of the bus then we will,” he said. “They’ve got some good athletes; really good skill position players who can really run.”
North Cobb Christian was shut down, 38-6, by Towns County last Friday, but the game before the Eagles scored a season-high 49 in a win over Providence Christian. Part-time quarterback and running back Kendall Crute ran for 133 yards and a touchdown and added a 40-yard touchdown pass in the win, and prior to the Towns County game led the team with 294 yards rushing and four touchdowns.
The Lions will have to deal with an explosive running attack that goes beyond Crute. John Towne ran for 105 yards on three carries, caught a touchdown pass and returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown against Providence, and Miller Forristall ran for 77 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Alex Ho-on is the main quarterback for the Eagles, and through the Providence win was 15 of 45 for 254 yards and one touchdown.
The Lions’ success this season starts with defense, where they have allowed an average of just 11.5 points per game, second in the area.
Seniors Trevor Price and Nick Henderson lead the team in tackles. Price averages around 10 per game and Henderson seven for a unit that has shut out two teams this season and held two others to 12 or less.
“This is our best defensive football team,” Gruhn said. “We’ve forced a lot of three-and-outs and a lot of turnovers.”
The Lions have also averaged just under 30 points per game on offense running the triple option.
Senior running back Caleb Faulkner leads the team with 647 yards rushing and eight touchdowns, while Reynolds has added 432 yards and five scores for the run-based attack.
Gruhn said that, while the defense and special teams have been the main strengths this season, that the offense has been steadily improving. He added that last week’s 35-0 win over St. Francis was the best outing yet for the offense.
Reynolds also credits much of the teams improvement this season to the simple fact of having more players and being able to run better practices now that the coaching staff has at least a few more options in case of an injury.
It’s that increase in numbers that also has Gruhn looking at the possibility of returning to a region schedule after next season.
He said he wants to see at least 30 players on the team on a consistent basis to make the move.
The popularity of the program is up, but Gruhn said that the large senior class has a lot to do with the larger team as well.
It’s a senior class that has permeated throughout the athletic programs at the small private school. Reynolds also plays basketball, and rattled off Price, Joel Larsen, John Cox and others as teammates that play both sports. The baseball team has crossover too, something that Gruhn said the school encourages.
Reynolds has also seen the bond it creates.
“It’s just the love of the game,” he said. “When you go to Lakeview, you play it all, and it brings you a lot closer.”
Reynolds and some of the others have already seen that bond pay off in basketball, where the team has been to a number of state tournaments. Now the Lions seniors are one win from making history on the football field.
They’ve come a long way.