By MIKE SHAFFER
For the Star Beacon
SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP —
When Lakeside football coach Ryan David took on the challenge of rebuilding the Dragons football program he had to know there would be nights like his team had Friday.
The Dragons (1-9, 0-7 PAC) were beaten by the Division II State qualifiers Chardon Hilltoppers (8-2, 5-2 PAC) 35-0 on a rainy night at Lakeside High school stadium.
“Everything they did tonight we knew,” David said. “We showed our kids everything they do on film and our kids just didn’t execute.”
Chardon dominated the game from the opening kick to the final gun. Quarterback T.J. Benenati took the ball in from 5 yards out on the Hilltoppers opening drive. Later in the first quarter Roger Davis ran a touchdown in from 12 yards out and the route was on.
Chardon would pound the ball on the ground all night at the Lakeside defense.
“That’s what we do, that’s what makes us Chardon,” Hilltoppers coach Mitch Hewitt said. “People ask us all the time why don’t we throw the ball more. Every team we play throws the ball a lot more than we do and we’re still beating them. People don’t always agree with our philosophy but it’s worked for us for two decades and we’re going to hope that it works for two more.”
Chardon only attempted three passes on the night. The first one went to tight end Andrew Gray for a 42-yard score in the second quarter.
“That’s ultimately what we have to do, teams know we’re going to run the football so they’re getting nine or 10 in the box,” Hewitt said. “We tell our kids all the time when we throw it’s got to count and it did tonight.”
Gray took a similar play 52 yards in the third quarter to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Gittens that put Chardon up, 28-0.
Teddy Gould took the ball in from 5 yards out in the fourth quarter to finish the scoring.
While Lakeside was never able to get on the scoreboard, quarterback Tyler Loftus did have success moving the ball through the air. The junior completed 14 of 33 passes for 128 yards.
“Tyler did a great job out there tonight,” David said. “The unfortunate thing is football is a lot about blocking, tackling and catching the ball. We didn’t block well, we didn’t tackle well and we didn’t catch well. Tyler would have looked a lot better if we just would have caught the ball.”
“Their (Lakeside) quarterback tonight took more hits than I’ve seen anybody take in a long time,” said Hewitt. “The Lakeside coaches have done a great job with the few kids that they do have. These kids tonight, they fought they battled, they never quit out there. It’s easy to quit when you don’t have a lot of wins and things are not going your way on the scoreboard, I never saw that in their kids tonight.”
“We’ve hung with every team with the exception of South,” David said. “Up until the end of the fourth quarter, then the last five or six minutes of the game the other team’s depth takes over and they give you that knock-out punch. But the way you get depth is you run a good, classy, disciplined program and hopefully that vibrates through the school and we get kids that want to come out and be a part of a good, disciplined program.”
David will look to next year to move the Lakeside program forward. As for Chardon, they will be in action next week as the State playoffs begin.
“We don’t know who we’re going to play or where we are going to play, but I can tell you this, we’re going to be the surprise of the state of Ohio,” Hewitt told his team.
Shaffer is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.
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