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Lake View High School

Wild Gators hoping for another run at state title

 

By David Shelton

Senior Writer

Lake View – After gaining a good taste of state championship gold a year ago, the 2017 Lake View High football team is aiming for a repeat this fall.

Lake View begins defense of their Class A state championship won last December on November 10th. After earning a first-round bye in the Class A lower state bracket, the Wild Gators await the winner of a November 3rd tilt between East Clarendon and Cross. The likely opponent will be Cross, a team ranked in the top 10 for most of the season.

Lake View head coach Daryl King knows all about playoff intensity and says raising play to another level is imperative, regardless of what was accomplished during the regular season.

“You play the regular season to get seeded in the playoffs or to win a region championship but once that last game is over, it all changes,” King said. “The teams that continue to progress and improve are the ones that usually get to the championship. You have to ramp up the intensity and the focus. You have to pay attention to all of the little details. It’s very competitive. The playoffs are a different animal.”

Lake View finished the regular season with an 8-2 record. After losing their opener to Latta, 26-22, the Wild Gators won eight consecutive games. On October 27th, Lake View battled undefeated and second-ranked Hemingway for the region 6-A championship.

Things did not go as planned for the Wild Gators. Hemingway turned three turnovers into touchdowns, taking back a pair of interceptions and a fumble for scores in a 34-20 win. A turnover free game probably results in a Lake View win.

“We didn’t take care of the ball and Hemingway made some good plays,” King said. “One of the interceptions came on their one-yard line and they took it back 99 yards. A fumble came on their eight-yard line and they took it back 90 yards. It was a tough night.

“We don’t blame any one person. People don’t realize the breakdowns that happen in other areas that lead to turnovers or mistakes. The biggest thing is that we learn from it. It was a tough loss but we went right back to work at correcting our mistakes. You have to keep moving forward and making sure you correct the bad stuff.”

King says his team was disappointed with the loss but he continues to see a strong attitude during the off week.

“We had a pretty hard day (Wednesday) and the kids are responding fine,” he said. “Every day there is something to work on and we’re still working really hard. We want to make sure we heal up some and get healthy but we’re not taking it easy. We want to get ourselves ready for a run if we can.”

Despite the unfortunate interceptions in the last game, King says quarterback De’Ante Bridgett is having a great season. He has completed 82 of 130 pass attempts this season, throwing for 1,549 yards and 19 touchdowns.

“It’s been a while since we had that kind of production in the passing game, if ever,” King said. “De’Ante’s fine. He’s having a good year. His season is not determined by one game. He’ll bounce back.”

Jalik Roberts is the team’s leading receiver with 29 catches for 702 yard (24.2 average) and nine touchdowns. Benji Kelley leads the ground game with 1,103 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 6.1 yards per touch.

On the defensive side, King says the unit continues to show improvement but will need to be at their best come playoff time.

“We’re making progress but we still see a lot that we can do better,” the coach said. “We continue to stress the importance of getting as many as we can to the football. We can do better.”

Linebacker Tieray Blue is the team’s leading tackler, racking up 110 tackles in 10 games. AJ Wheeler has five interceptions in the secondary while Willie Wheeler intercepted two passes in the game against Hemingway.

Middle linebacker Webb Caldwell continues to have a solid season, as does defensive lineman William Hayes. Elijah Fleming, a starting offensive lineman, saw action on the defensive line in the Hemingway game and played well, according to King.

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