By VINCE PELUSO
SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP —
First-year coach Lakeside coach Frank Hall says the mark of a good football is whether it can run the ball and play good defense.
So, by his own definition, he must be coaching a pretty good football team.
In their home opener, the Dragons ran the ball effectively, controlled the clock and shut out the Jefferson Falcons, 25-0 in winning their first home opener since 2009. Lakeside is also 9-0 all-time against Jefferson.
“Looking around and seeing the student section and how they came out on the field with the band and the football team all together, it was priceless,” Hall said. “That’s what we want to do here. I know I’m the football coach, but it’s something I want to bring to the whole district. Bring some pride back and do some good things.”
Lakeside (2-1) dominated offensively to start the game, picking up 11 first downs in the first half, but it resulted in the just seven points, a 3-yard run by Tyler Loftus (20 carries, 136 yards) with 1:41 remaining in the second quarter.
Hall’s offense ran 30 plays on its first three drives, but the first two drives results in interceptions deep in Falcon territory.
“I thought the first half, we should’ve scored a couple more,” Hall admitted. “We gave a couple away, but I’m real happy with our offensive line. We’re real young up front, we start two sophomores and a freshman. We’ve been working hard with them and I’m happy for them.”
Following the touchdown, Jefferson’s offense, which had a total of one first down and three punts on its first three drives, started to move.
Runs of 28 yards by Ryan Zindash and 13 by Cole Erdel had the Falcons threatening, then the game changed.
Erdel, looking for a back on a screen pass, was intercepted by defensive end Nick Meola, who took it 85 yards for a touchdown, putting the Dragons up 13-0 at the half.
“That was a big momentum swing,” Jefferson coach Jimmy Henson said. “I’d say that’s the biggest turning point. Then, they came around and put it right in at the start of the second half, too, so obviously, we hadn’t recovered from it.”
Aided by two Jefferson personal fouls, the Dragons marched 65 yards in seven plays, capped by a Kyle Downs 16-yard run to open the second half and push the lead to 19-0.
“It’s huge,” Hall said of the interception and following touchdown. “Nick’s been big for us all year, he’s a great kid, a great leader. It was just huge to show that we’re still in that building process, the kids get that big play going into halftime then we get the ball take it right down and score. It was huge.”
Downs added to his night on the next Dragons possession, this one a three-play 67-yard drive that resulted in a 34-yard dash for the senior, making the score 25-0 with 5:03 remaining in the third quarter.
“We were happy to get Kyle out of the basketball team and out here, ya know?” Hall said. “He’s learning, too. He put the ball on the ground a couple times, too, so we need to work on that. It’s still part of a process.
“We have a sign in the locker room that says, ‘Trust the process.’ We’re starting to get better.”
The Falcons (1-2) didn’t relent on the ensuing drive, marching down to the Lakeside 11 in 11 plays, but Erdel was stuffed for a 1-yard loss on fourth down, effectively ending any comeback hopes.
“I thought their defense played very well,” Henson said. “I think we had a couple opportunities we didn’t take advantage of. They beat us in every phase tonight. We gotta go back... obviously, I got outcoached tonight. So I gotta find a way to get my boys ready to play. We start league play next Friday night and we’re going to have a tough one (at Campbell Memorial). I need to find a way to get ’em ready. Obviously, I didn’t have ’em ready tonight and we got outplayed and I got outcoached.
“Frank Hall did a great job tonight and he deserves all the credit and his kids deserve all the credit. They took it to us.”
Hall said he liked the way his team finished the game, something he’s been preaching since he took over.
“Our first meeting with the kids, I talked to them about one thing we needed to learn to do and that was finish games,” he said. “I thought we came out in the second half and finished the game. We ran the football really hard and were able to finish.”
Lakeside ran the ball for 242 yards as a team and dominated the time of possession, holding the ball for more than 28 minutes, gaining 19 first downs in the process.
“I talk to the kids about the reason I took this job is because we want to compete in the PAC, we want to get wins in the PAC,” Hall said. “So we’re going to enjoy this win tonight and tomorrow, then we’re going to get back to work and get ready for Riverside.
“(This win) is huge, to beat a non-county school (Youngstown East) then beat your neighbor school. We beat a pretty good Youngstown East school, who is also 2-1. We ran into some tough competition with Brush last week, but overall, it’s good.”