Friday, October 22, 1999
Lakota rivalry goes prime-time
Winner could determine GMC title, playoff berth
BY CAREY HOFFMAN
How does a great rivalry first catch fire? Football fans in the Lakota school district may be about to find out tonight.
QB Aaron York has helped Lakota West to a 6-2 record.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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Lakota East (5-3, 4-2 in the Greater Miami Conference) meets Lakota West (6-2, 5-1 GMC) at 7:30 p.m. tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Galbreath Field in the biggest game in the three-year history of both schools, formed by the splitting of old Lakota High School.
East and West posted losing records in their first two years and were picked seventh and 10th, respectively, in the GMC preseason poll this season. But both rank among the biggest surprises in the area this fall.
West, which had never won a GMC game prior to this year, is tied with Fairfield for first place heading into the final week of league play. West will be assured of a share of the GMC title with a win; East can give itself a title shot with a victory, depending on what Fairfield does tonight at its archrival, Hamilton.
Then there's the playoffs. With two weeks left in the regular season, East ranks 9th and West 10th in the regional Division I computer rankings that determine playoff teams. The top eight teams qualify, so tonight's winner could put itself solidly in the playoff picture and the loser goes on the endangered list.
Add to that the natural dynamics of what is in reality a sibling rivalry on a community-sized scale and you've created the backdrop that can produce the kind of game Lakotans will talk about for years.
This is a great game, and that's how it should be, said Lakota East coach Greg Bailie. His team won the first-ever meeting of the two schools in the third week of last year 15-8 before more than 10,000 fans at Galbreath, but given that both schools ended up with losing years, Bailie said it was like opening a Christmas present long before Christmas was to arrive.
I told somebody then we needed to move this to the 10th game and that someday East and West would play for the league championship, Bailie said. But I didn't know that it would happen this year.
They've progressed in similar styles. Both teams play a 50 defense and strive for ball control on offense. Ironically, East has switched to an option attack on offense this year, while West has switched to
a double-tight end, fullhouse backfield running attack similar to what East was running.
We were run-and-shoot the last two years and we're running basic, Woody Hayes smashmouth football now, said West coach Larry Cox.
West's attack has been aided tremendously by the development of sophomore Mike Lovell, who may be the top big-play threat in tonight's game. The speedster first got into the lineup against Princeton in week four, and proceeded to produce four straight 100- yard rushing games. He's got great instincts for a young kid, Cox said. I'd have to rate him one of the top three backs in the league.
West can also call upon fullback David Hutzelman, who erupted for a school-record 202 rushing yards in last week's clutch 38-34 victory over Sycamore. Quarterback Aaron York and halfbacks Steve Rapien, Ross Schnitzler and Aaron McQueen are other threats in West's offense.
East is coming off a damaging 35-32 loss to Lima that was decided by a Lima TD with 11 seconds left to play.
East will also look for contributions from a handful of skill players and has the comfort of lining up halfbacks Barrett Johnson and Mike Rabin. Johnson had key catches to set up both East TDs in last year's victory over West, while Rabin had an interception on defense with 15 seconds left to seal the victory.
When East coach Bailie looks for an underlying reason why both teams have emerged this year, he points back four years to when he saw a very good freshman team play in the last season of Lakota High School football. Those players split up and now are mainstays for both schools this year.
One team will walk away from tonight's game with the realization what is already a very special year has become a Cinderella-type season.
I've told our kids you've written a tale this year they write books about, said West's Cox. To go from an 0-7 start two years ago to being on this threshold... But for us, it comes down to taking care of business on the field, just remembering what you're out there to do.