Lakeview Academy’s football program had to make a difficult decision during the offseason, but feels like doing so will help make it stronger in the long run.
The Lions, led by coach Matthew Gruhn, made the choice to start playing a non-region schedule, instead of facing the gauntlet of schools in Region 8-A every week. Playing a non-region schedule frees Lakeview’s program up to play similarly small programs, while being able to build momentum for years to come.
Gruhn knows such a decision comes with a cost of eliminating the possibility to make it to the playoffs or contend for a region championship. However, with only 24 players on the team roster, Gruhn felt going non-region was a necessary move.
“It’s a numbers game,” Gruhn said. “If we still had 28-30 players on the team, we’d still be playing a region schedule. My goal for our program is to get better day by day, and make Friday nights fun for these players.”
Part of what Gruhn does on a day-to-day basis is try to prevent injuries. With such a small player pool to pull from, he says one injury on his team is the same as three injuries to the average high school roster. Conditioning is also key to playing different positions.
“Our kids are in good shape since so many of them are multi-sport athletes,” Gruhn said. “In practice, they run so many reps because we don’t have a lot of players.”
However, it’s a matter of quality over quantity with Lakeview. Gruhn likes his group of players and 12 seniors that he brings to the field in 2010. Even though the Lions are short on players, they have eight players that have been in the program since the eighth grade and built a very tight bond together.
“I know these guys want to leave a legacy at this school and to leave feeling glad that they played football,” Gruhn said.
Out of a triple-option offense, Jackson Wells (6-5, 175) will be at quarterback for Lakeview. Though he’s new to the position, Gruhn knows his new QB is a great athlete from his experience in the Lions’ basketball program. His main focus will be carrying out the keep, pitch and dive that is the basis of the triple option.
At running back, Nick Drury takes over this season for his older brother, Tom Drury, who graduated last year. Trevor Price, a sophomore, will also be in the backfield.
The offensive line is a strength for the Lions this season with four returning starters (James Bagwell, Jarrod Beck, Stephen Reynolds and Todd Williams) and a first-year starter in senior Spencer Sorrells at tackle.
On the defensive line, seniors Jones and Kyer Alexander will play inside. Bagwell and sophomore Alex Oliver are the defensive ends.
Linebackers are Mills Rogers and Reynolds inside, and Drury and Price at outside linebacker in the eight-man front scheme.
Rogers will handle all the kicking duties for Lakeview Academy.
Even though Lakeview Academy is playing a non-region schedule and not a contender for the playoffs, it wants the same things as other football programs. In the school’s third season of varsity football, the Lions want the school to stay excited about the program, keep momentum for future classes and win some games. If they can do that, the season is a success.