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FOOTBALL IN HALL 2019: Lakeview Academy looking to build from strong finish to 2018
Lions seeking first playoff berth in program history
Lakeview Academy
Lakeview Academy coach Matthew Gruhn watches players during practice drills Aug. 2 in Gainesville.

While Lakeview Academy has been in a bit of a rut since the team’s last winning season in 2012, longtime Lions coach Matthew Gruhn isn’t pessimistic. 

After a strong finish to last season that saw Lakeview Academy win its second to last game against Towns County followed by a narrow loss to Athens Christian in the final contest, Gruhn said he’s hoping to carry that momentum into the coming year and keep the wins coming. 

“We feel like every year is a new year,” Gruhn said. “Every year we start full of hope. I really appreciate our guys. They know the challenge that lays ahead.”

5 things to watch

Starting strong

The Lions plan to hold onto their successful finish to the year in 2018 for as long as they can. 

After struggling heavily in the early part of the year, Lakeview Academy started to find its groove late. The team is hoping for a quick start to this season, and will be emphasizing its energy in Week 1 in an attempt to play its best football throughout the year and avoid another slow start.

“The first game is always exciting,” Lions senior running back Brandon Wilson said. “You’ve worked all summer and you’re just ready to go. I’m really excited.” 

New, option-based offense

Part of the Lions late season success in 2018 was due to a mid-season change in offensive philosophy. 

With the team struggling to pass the ball effectively, Gruhn turned to an option attack that got the ball in the hands of the Lions’ running backs more frequently. Wilson, along with fellow senior Jordan Thomas will be leading the rushing attack that caught teams off guard when Lakeview Academy first implemented it last year. 

Expect the Lions to expand on this offensive mindset this season in an effort to constantly keep opponents second guessing themselves defensively. 

“We’re just trying to be more option-based, meaning that there’s probably trying to put defenses in a bind more so, and using the strength of these guys more,” Gruhn said. “And if we can somehow get that done, I think we’ll be tough to defend.”

Youth along the offensive front

Among Lakeview Academy’s most important departures from last season are former offensive linemen Bryce Blackwell, Ian Echols and Palmer Ferguson, a trio that leaves several absences along the Lions’ offensive front. 

“It’s hard to replace those kinds of guys, especially on the line of scrimmage,” Gruhn said. “We’re fairly young on the line of scrimmage, but I think we’ll be OK.”

Gruhn pointed to players like Trenton Glover, Christian Haynes and Sam Highfield as possible replacements, also adding that it’s time for senior Kaleb Adams to “rise and shine.” But regardless of who is filling the now vacant positions, the Lions will have a brand new look at offensive line. 

Conditioning, conditioning, conditioning

Considering Lakeview Academy’s smaller than average roster, many of the team’s players will be forced to play both sides of the ball, and breaks will be at a premium for the Lions’ star players. For that reason, Gruhn said he’s been emphasizing conditioning to make sure his players are always ready 

to run. 

Gruhn’s defensive philosophy involves constantly running toward the ball, getting as many players in on tackles as possible. It’s a style that is effective at containing broken tackles, but difficult to maintain for any but the best-conditioned players. To effectively carry it out, Gruhn plans on his players meeting that high standard.

“Our mantra is we’re not going to be the biggest and we’re not going to be maybe the strongest, but our mantra is we’re going to run to the ball,” Gruhn said.

Coming out of the woodwork

Opportunity will be the name of the game for a Lakeview Academy team that doesn’t have many players with a firm hold on their position. When asked which lesser known players were expected to rise up to contribute this season, Gruhn responded simply with “all of them.”

“We’re expecting a lot of them who haven’t contributed a ton to be great contributors this year,” Gruhn said. “Not only expecting but believing it’s going to happen. So I look forward to seeing those guys, and I think they’re ready for it too.”

Schedule

Aug. 30 at Strong Rock

Sept. 13 at St. Francis

Sept. 27 at George Walton*

Oct. 4 HEBRON CHRISTIAN*

Oct. 11 COMMERCE*

Oct. 18 at Riverside Military*

Oct. 25 PRINCE AVENUE CHRISTIAN*

Nov. 1 at Towns County*

Nov. 8 Region play-in

*region games

Roster

3 Brandon Wilson RB/LB 12

4 Jordan Thomas RB/SEC 12

5 Andrew Baker RB/DE 12

6 Sam Perrott WR/SEC 10

7 Luke Coooper RB/LB 9

8 Ben Puckett QB/LB 11

9 Walker Elliot WR/SEC 11

10 Bodie Blackwell RB/LB 11

11 James Michael Harrison WR/SEC 11

12 Raul Reyes WR/SEC 9

15 Will Gayton WR/SEC 9

17 Andrew Pope WR/LB 10

18 Griffin Brock WR/SEC 11

23 Arshaq Ali WR/SEC 11

24 Parker Allen WR/SEC 11

34 Landon Hanes RB/LB 9

42 Roman Yaskulka RB/LB 10

51 Trent Glover OL/DL 12

52 Kaleb Adams OL/DL 12

55 Christian Haynes OL/DL 11

60 Sean Lupczynski OL/DL 10

61 Sam Highfield OL/DL 12

65 Jack Williams Ol/LB 11

66 Luke Lindler OL/DL 9

70 Hamil Owens OL/DL 10

71 Tanner Allen OL/DL 10

72 Hunter Allen OL/DL 10

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