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Lake View High School

Wild Gators making steady improvement on gridiron

 

By David Shelton

Senior Writer

Lake View – After losing nearly two dozen seniors from a team that won the Class A state championship last season, one might expect a drop-off in 2017.

However, at programs like the one at Lake View High School, the expectations remain the same. New faces are one thing, but tradition is a strong motivator.

The 2017 Wild Gators have impressed so far this season, sitting with a 5-1 record as they hit the stretch drive of the schedule. Lake View’s lone loss came in the season opener to Latta, 26-22. The Wild Gators have reeled off five straight victories, winning a few close ones along the way.

Head coach Daryl King says while the team is progressing, the improvement must continue.

“I think we are getting better every week so we are making progress as a team,” the coach said. “Our kids are playing hard, which is a good thing. We aren’t having to coach effort out there. We keep finding ways to win some games, and that’s good, but we realize we have a lot of work to do.”

In stark contrast to years past, Lake View is having more success as a passing team than they have running the football. Pounding and grinding yardage on the ground is a staple of Lake View’s offense but with one returning offensive lineman, Marshall Powell, the method of moving the football has changed.

“We have a lot of new guys on the line and they’re improving a lot from where we were when we started,” King said. “We are fortunate to have a quarterback who can throw it and that’s something we have focused on. We want to be able to run the football better though. That’s something we are still working hard at.”

De’Ante Bridgett is the quarterback this season and his throwing ability has been a weapon. Through six games, Bridgett has completed 63 of 100 passes for 1,029 yards and 16 touchdowns. To put those numbers in perspective, there have been entire seasons where Lake View has not attempted 100 passes.

“He has a strong arm and he’s very accurate with the deep ball,” said King of Bridgett. “He’s as good a passer as we’ve ever had at Lake View. He’s a good football player.”

Benjy Kelly is Lake View’s leading rusher, gaining 551 yards in the first six games. The top pass-catcher is junior Jalik Roberts, a 6-3, 185-pounder. Roberts has more than 500 yards receiving, including a 189-yard effort on four catches in Lake View’s region opener against Green Sea-Floyds.

Defensively, the Wild Gators entered the season with a host of new faces but a few with playing experience have been leading the way.

The leading tackler has been junior linebacker Tieray Blue, who has 71 tackles. Senior inside linebacker Webb Caldwell is second on the team in tackles.

The anchor along the front is senior William Hayes while senior AJ Wheeler is the leader in the back at safety.

“We’ve had a few lapses at times but overall the defense has done a good job,” King said. “They will have their hands full down the stretch.”

Lake View played East Clarendon on October 6th. The Wild Gators have region games remaining with Hannah-Pamplico, Creek Bridge and Hemingway. Hemingway is currently ranked second in Class A with a 6-0 record.

“For us, where we are right now, every game is a challenge,” King said. “We can’t look past anyone. Our focus has to be on getting better every day, every week.”

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