Determined Gators take aim at a happy homecoming tonight

Lakeview High School has a big homecoming celebration slated tonight, and the Gators football team can ramp it up with a win over visiting D’arbonne Woods in a non-district matchup.

The 7 p.m. kickoff follows a landmark ceremony at 6:45 when groundbreaking festivities will officially start the project to install a $900,000 artificial turf field at the school. The Lakeview homecoming court will be presented at halftime, and there should be four quarters of competitive football between a hungry Gators squad and a better-than-expected Timberwolves team.

Lakeview is 1-6 overall, while the visitors are 3-2 and have outscored their last three foes 104-20 after opening with a pair of losses. But this contest is undeniably within reach for a Lakeview team that has battled some quality opponents in the last five weeks.

“It’s a much improved D’arbonne Woods team. They’ve played really well,” said Gators’ coach Brandon Helms. “They’re run-heavy, so that simplifies our defensive approach. We believe we have a good plan, our kids have done a good job of buying into it, and now we just have to execute it.”

Homecoming festivities are the bane of a high school coach’s season, providing constant opportunities for distractions that gnaw away at the attention spans of their players. Helms has not seen that this week.

“It’s been a busy week, like homecoming weeks always are. The kids’ attitude has been great, and we’ve gotten some good work in,” he said. “We’ve gotten better in some areas this week.”

All over the practice field, the Gators have given their coaches good effort. Some have stood out.

“Matt Howard has had a great week of practice, and so has Kaleb Collins. Donavon Carries has probably had his best week of practice in two years,” said Helms, citing his defensive end and quick side guard for an especially noteworthy work week.

“He’s understanding what we want him to do, and the technique and why we’re doing what we’re doing. I’m seeing that more and more each week with our kids, but it’s really stood out in Donavon’s case this week.”

What is Helms asking his Gators to do tonight?

“Maintain control of the ball, don’t turn it over and make it down the field into the end zone. It’s a pretty simple approach,” he said. “We don’t have to do special things, we just need to do the basics well and we will have a chance to celebrate homecoming the right way.”