By ERIC FORTUNE
For the Star Beacon
Adjustments. A lot of times, it comes down to those tweaks that can change the complexion of a game that looks and feels lost.
Going into halftime, the Pymatuning Valley Lakers looked lifeless with 47 total yards of offense and staring at a 21-0 deficit to the LaBrae Vikings.
The complete role reversal nearly took place in the second half of a game that became much more exciting when Quintin Ratliff drove the Lakers 59 yards to the LaBrae 19-yard line in the final two minutes.
Instead of the improbable happening, Charles Pifer ruined the comeback as his sack ended contest as the Lakers fell, 21-14.
“Anytime you can pull a victory from the jaws of defeat, you’re happy with that,” LaBrae coach John Armeni said. “Chuckie is a big time player for us. He makes big plays when we need them.”
It was the play the Vikings needed as they had no answer for Ratliff (18 carries for 160 yards) throughout the second half as the Lakers finally came alive and the Vikings sputtered with only three first downs and just 50 yards of offense in the second half.
“He’s the guy that makes their team go,” Armeni said. “They are just going to give him the football no matter what position he lines up at. They did a great job of that. I got sick and tired of watching him run around.”
Ratliff immediately jumpstarted the Lakers two plays into the second half as his 78 yard scamper cut the deficit to 21-6 after the PAT failed.
“The line really stepped up and got us some movement,” Pymatuning coach Neal Croston said. “We got them on the ropes. For whatever reason, we came out flat in that first half. That was costly.”
After forcing a LaBrae punt, the Lakers would move 78 yards on 13 plays as Nick Such’s 1-yard plunge made it 21-14 in favor of the Vikings.
“He can make something out of nothing,” Croston said. “He makes plays when they are not there.”
In the first half, it was Armeni’s special player - Keevon Harris - that gave LaBrae some life as his 57 yard run got the Vikings their first first down and on the scoreboard four plays later when Justin Jenkins found Jamal Dawkins from 2 yards out to make it 7-0 and the start of 21 unanswered points in the second quarter.
“That’s a huge play,” Armeni said. “We try to get him the ball in different situations. He makes the most out of those situations.
“If we execute — play clean and don’t make mistakes — we have special athletes. We saw a glimpse of that tonight. Still, we made a lot of mistakes tonight, but we have athletes that can make some plays when we don’t kill ourselves.”
Fortune is a freelance writer from McDonald.