Like its season, Lakeview Academy started out slow on Friday night against Riverside Military Academy but finished strong in all three phases to win 24-14.
The Lions closed the season with back-to-back victories on their home turf of Jock Hornor Field in Gainesville.
In a first-time meeting of two Region 8-A programs, the Lions (3-7, 3-6 Region 8-A) dominated the game clock for the majority of the first half, and capitalized on Eagle misfortunes to stay ahead.
“It was just a great way to finish,” Lakeview coach Matthew Gruhn said. “You know, it feels good. There’s a chance we won’t make the playoffs, but it’s always good to win the last one and that only feels better going into the offseason. So I’m glad for these guys that we got to win the last two.”
Lions junior quarterback Alec Bornhorst followed his five-touchdown showing against Towns County, in which he tossed the game-winner the previous week, with another solid outing on the team’s senior night. Bornhorst capped a 13-play, 64-yard drive that was extended by a defensive holding call — one of many costly penalties for the Eagles for the evening — with a 6-yard plunge into the end zone at the 6:53 mark.
He went on to complete passes to seven different receivers for 230 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Bornhorst (23 of 46 passing) also came through on defense for the Lions, snagging the first of two interceptions thrown by Riverside quarterback Lyle Lopez in the final two minutes of the game to keep the Eagles out of reach. Senior Willy Perry sealed the win with the final interception with 4.4 seconds left.
“We never quit,” Bornhorst said of the win and the Lions’ season overall. “We finished these last two games and pulled out two wins at the end of the season. It feels great for the team and for myself.”
The athleticism of the Eagles (2-7, 1-7) came in spurts. They matched the Lions’ on the scoreboard in the opening quarter with a Charles Dimnwaobi 85-yard kick return for a touchdown less than 30 seconds after the Lions took a 7-0 lead. Juwan Thompson showcased his closing speed in the fourth quarter, hauling in a deep throw of Lyle Lopez (9 of 18 passing, 111 yards, 1 touchdown) and booking 43-yards down the visiting sideline for the Eagles’ final score at 24-14.
But self inflicted wounds, which includes well over 100 yards worth of penalties — six for 55 yards in the first half — still kept the Lions in the driver’s seat.
The Eagles only mustered five offensive plays in the first quarter and couldn’t capitalize on a Lions turnover on downs inside Riverside’s 4-yard-line. The Lions instead forced the Eagles to the back of the end zone on a botched snap on fourth down for a safety to take a 9-7 lead on the final play of the first quarter.
The Lions went on to use two more Eagle mishaps to widen the gap. A failed fake punt attempt by Riverside set up Bornhorst for his first touchdown pass of the night on the next play, a 40-yard strike to senior Brannon Browner to make it 15-7. A Carter Reeves fumble recovery six plays later set up a 12-play drive capped by a 41-yard Jack Perkins field goal right before intermission.
“We certainly took advantage of some (opportunities). You know, as a coach, you want to take advantage of every opportunity, but we took advantage of enough of them,” Gruhn said.
While the teams traded long punts for much of the second half, Lakeview defensive back Peyton Solinsky emerged at the right time to make sure his team stayed on top. He brought down the Eagles’ punter inside Riverside’s 6-yard-line to put the Lions in contention for their final score with 11:02 left to play.
Solinsky (four catches, 51 yards) put himself back in the conversation three snaps later, as the sophomore tipped Bornhorst’s hard-thrown pass up in the air, but quickly pulled it back in as he fell to the ground in the end zone to make it 24-7.
For the Lions, tight end Carter Reeves led with six catches for 53 yards as well.