For the Star Beacon
ANDOVER TOWNSHIP —
The Pymatuning Valley Lakers came into the 2013 season with an edict from their coach, Neal Croston:
Be more physical.
Through two games this season, the Lakers have accomplished that. The results — a 32-24 season-opening win at Berkshire and a 36-20 loss to Cardinal in their home opener at Laker Stadium — showed PV to be more physical.
And as they head into their Week 3 matchup at LaBrae, Croston said it was mental mistakes, not those of the physical nature, that did them in last week against visiting Cardinal, which sprinted out of the gates to the tune of a 22-0 advantage before PV knew what had hit it.
“We played hard and all that, but had a few mental breakdowns in our assignments on defense,” Croston said. “We had too many turnovers that gave Cardinal a short field.
“Saying all that, we cut the score to 29-20 in the third quarter and ran a 2-point conversion play that could of went either way. We gave ourselves a chance for the comeback.”
Getting back into the game only magnified how important the mental mistakes were early on for the Lakers.
“We weren't consistent in all three phases of the game and Cardinal was able to take advantage of that in the first half,” Croston said. “We did a good job of creating some third-and-long situations for them, but gave them two long conversions by not executing on third down.
“In both drives, Cardinal was able to put points on the board and keep our offense on the sideline.”
Which PV cannot afford in the second-ever matchup with LaBrae on Friday night in Leavittsburg. The Lakers defeated the Vikings in the only other matchup between the schools, a 26-21 Week 3 triumph on Sept. 22, 1967 in Andover Township.
The Vikings (1-1) escaped Jefferson with a 15-14 win in their opener at Falcon Pride Stadium, but weren’t nearly as successful a week ago against visiting Warren John F. Kennedy. The Eagles knocked off the Vikings last week, 34-14, in Leavittsburg.
“They have some talented skills players and play a physical style of football,” Croston said of the Vikings. “This a game we will need to play good football for four quarters.”
Croston has a very good idea of what LaBrae will be bringing to the table Friday night.
“On defense, they run multiple fronts and are aggressive with their front eight,” he said. “On offense, they run the spread and it starts with their quarterback, Justin Jenkins. He is a dual-threat guy who is a good player. His running back, Jamal Dawkins, is also good player who has exceptional speed. They have talented group of receivers, with Marcell Richards (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) leading the way.”
At Jefferson in Game 1, Dawkins ran for 88 yards on 15 carries, including touchdown runs of 13 and 34 yards. Jenkins completed 6 of 13 passes for 25 yards at Jefferson, running for 44 yards on a dozen carries.
Croston knows what must be done in order for his Lakers to move to 2-1 in the season.
“We must play sound defense, avoiding big plays,” he said. “ We need to win the turnover battle... be on the plus side usually leads to a win.
And we need to have a balanced attack on offense. We need to be able to run and throw on a consistent basis.”
Two games into the 2013 season, Croston said the Lakers, while on the right track, need more consistency.
“I know our guys feel they can play more consistent as a team,” he said. “We have seen sparks of that team we want to be.
“Our guys will continue to work hard to up their level of play.”