You probably don’t see progress in a 36-12 loss, but Lakeview football coach Brandon Helms knows better.
His Gators hung tough Friday night at Bunkie, in a game much more competitive than the final score indicates.
The young Lakeview squad, with only two senior starters, showed resiliency in the wake of a Monday team meeting that refocused a struggling team. The Gators (1-4) came out of that gathering with a sense of purpose and it showed on a rainy night against the Panthers (3-2).
“Our kids played hard. We executed better,” said Helms. “It came down to depth, and we got worn down. They pulled away late after we got it to a one-score game late in the third quarter.
“I’ve got some kids who played close to 140 snaps Friday night. Bunkie dressed out 68 guys and played 49. That is tough to overcome. It’s not insurmountable, but it’s a hill to climb,” said Helms. “I was proud of the way we competed.”
The rain arrived shortly before kickoff and continued through most of the first half, limiting both teams’ offensively and creating a field position battle. Bunkie opened a 16-6 advantage.
The Gators bounced back, mounting a long drive to net the second touchdown of the night by talented junior quarterback Dillon Pikes. After a 3-yard TD in the first half, he scampered 26 yards to paydirt midway through the third quarter.
Bunkie answered with a scoring drive to go ahead by two touchdowns. In the fourth quarter with the clock grinding away, Helms decided to gamble on a fourth down at midfield and the Panthers made the stop. Bunkie scored a clinching TD and stretched out the final margin.
“We’ve got to clean up some things in special teams, but offensively and defensively I was very pleased with how we attacked. I didn’t see us with our heads down when they scored,” said Helms. “I saw us starting to try to make the next play. That’s the big thing I wanted to see, us fighting for 48 minutes.”
Pikes again had over 100 rushing yards, including his scoring runs, despite Bunkie’s defensive game plan focused entirely on him.
Panthers’ coach Nick Pujol told Helms, “We had nine guys keying him, and he still made us look like a fool.”
That was no surprise to Helms.
“He’s just a competitor. The kid just loves to compete. He never looks at the scoreboard, never. It’s just about getting better on the next play,” said the Gators’ coach. “If you can get a team full of those, you’ve got something. I hope our younger guys are seeing his leadership, because he’s one to follow.
The team’s other standout leader, senior linebacker Matthew Howard, had a great night with 16 tackles, one for lost yards, and a forced fumble.
“Wherever the football was, he was there. He played extremely hard and kept us going on the defensive end,” said Helms. “They don’t come any finer.”
The outcome, however, stings. Losing stinks. However, the effort and intensity and progress Helms saw were encouraging.
“It’s small steps, but we’ve got to take ‘em,” he said.
With a squad of under 40 players, the six seniors include two who have never played before, two who haven’t played much, and then two who are veterans. There’s at least five games left, next against powerful unbeaten Avoyells, but Helms is upbeat considering what he saw from his Gators all week long and Friday night.
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