By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
The Lakeside football squadron took another step forward Friday night.
With their 33-7 win against North, the Dragons won their first Premier Athletic Conference game since 2009. And they did it decisively, and on their opponents’ homecoming night, no less.
The last previous PAC victory for Lakeside came in the finale of the 2009 season, when it came away with a 28-24 triumph against the same opponent and in the same venue as Friday.
Lakeside (3-4, 1-3) dominated this one on both sides of the ball. On offense, Tyler Loftus threw for four touchdowns, including two each to Nick Meola and Demetrius Green. On defense, it held the Rangers (0-7, 0-4) to 106 yards and never let them get beyond the Lakeside 26-yard line, as the one North touchdown came on defense.
The Dragons limited North to one pass completion for 13 yards, with a Vincent Smith interception.
“It comes down to this (on defense),” first-year Lakeside coach Frank Hall said. “Coach (Ray) Enrico did a great job of having a great defensive game plan. And the kids bought in, and they just executed it perfect. It was outstanding. Coach Enrico’s done a great job all year for these guys.”
The Dragons recovered the ball when North couldn’t handle the opening kickoff. Then they went backwards for a few moments because of a penalty on that play and then three more in their first four offensive plays. But on second-and-18, Loftus (9 of 18, 172 yards, 0 INT) found Meola, who had beaten the defense down the right side. The tight end hauled it in and completed the 56-yard scoring play.
The score stayed at 6-0 for a while, but then the Dragons struck twice in the last 3:09 before halftime. Following a short punt, they took possession at the Ranger 36, and needed five plays to score, with Loftus finding Green over the middle for 22 yards.
After a three-and-out, Lakeside got the ball back 1:29 before the break. Five plays later, Loftus connected with Green for a 34-yard TD.
North sliced it to 21-7 on the first play from scrimmage in the second half when Chris Province stole the pigskin away from a ballcarrier and took it 30 yards. The Rangers had two chances to turn it into a one-score difference, but the Dragons didn’t let them get a first down either time. On North’s first try, they held the Rangers on downs after a short punt gave them possession on the Lakeside 36.
The Dragons then converted yet another five-play drive, this one covering 52 yards. Green (4 catches, 97 yards) caught a 32-yard pass from Loftus en route to 26-yard scoring run by Kyle Downs.
“Green’s a first-year guy; he’s never played football before,” Hall said of the junior. “It took us this long to get him acclimated to the procedures of football. He’s used to throwing the ball out in the backyard and running around. We had to tame him down a little bit.”
Downs finished with 90 yards on just nine attempts, with 73 coming on his final three carries.
“Usually, you run the ball to loosen them up to throw the ball,” Hall said. “But we were able to throw the ball to loosen them up to run the ball.”
A 3-yard pass from Loftus to Meola provided Lakeside’s final touchdown with 10:19 remaining. This time, the Dragons took four plays to score, moving 31 yards after a fumble recovery.
“They sold out to stop the run,” Hall said. “They committed to that. We were able to protect a little bit and throw the ball downfield, and Tyler did a great job.”
The big negative for the Dragons was the fact they committed 15 penalties for 115 yards. In addition to the flurry they had at the beginning, they were also penalized four consecutive times attempting to kick the ball off following their third TD.
“(The penalties were) atrocious,” Hall said. “We’re going to run (in practice), and when (we’re) tired, we’re going to run some more for that. That’s something that as a team, we need to correct – as a coaching staff, we need to correct.
“That’s something we’re going to talk about over the week, and hopefully, get corrected.”
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.