It’s Senior Night for the Lakeview Gators football team tonight in their season and home finale, and as coach Brandon Helms honors his six seniors, he’ll also be looking ahead to 2022.
That’s because most of his team is coming back for next season, with lots of the younger players getting more action than expected this fall due to an unreasonable amount of injuries to older teammates.
The Gators will be starting their third quarterback of the season, their sixth running back, and the ninth different offensive line combination as they encounter by far their toughest opponent – other than bad luck – in the Many Tigers.
Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Lakeview High, where the Gators will play on a grass home field for the last time. Next year a $900,000 artificial turf surface will be in place, a much more experienced team will take the field, and prospects will be infinitely brighter for Lakeview football.
Tonight, however, prospects for a win are dim. Many (8-1 overall, 5-0 in District 3-2A) is the defending state champion and looks ready for another title. The Tigers are No. 1 in Class 2A power points, No. 1 in the Louisiana Sports Writers top 10 poll, and are averaging 49 points per game. The Gators (1-8, 0-5) have scored no more than 22 points in any game, and have managed just one touchdown in their last two outings when injuries have sidelined standout quarterback Dillon Pikes and other key players.
Lakeview has shown plenty of fight, however, and although the odds are long tonight, Helms is confident he’ll get great effort from his guys.
“Our deal is build momentum for the offseason and next fall, and to send out six seniors out playing as hard as we can, the best we can,” he said. “Those six guys have made two playoff runs, and have been part of what we’re trying to do, change the culture of this program. We will play our hearts out for those guys.”
The seniors: receiver/free safety Jaidon Fowler, linebacker Matthew Howard, offensive/defensive lineman Dillon Ireland, defensive end and special teams contributor Jemarcus Logan, receiver/cornerback Alex Perry, and “Swiss Army knife” James Pennington, who has played every position but offensive and defensive line.
Going against Many is extra special to Pennington because he played for the Tigers in his freshman and sophomore years, said Helms. Last week, pressed into playing a wildcat position after Pikes was unable to go and his backup was hurt, Pennington ran for 115 yards on 27 carries. This week he’s gotten a full series of practice as a quarterback.
Ireland, who has been a stalwart up front for the Gators, is a game-time decision as he tries to come back from a sprained knee suffered a couple games ago. His toughness typifies the Lakeview approach.
“We’re banged up. You fight through it best you can,” said Helms. “The bright side is, we’re getting a lot of experience for the kids coming back, and the whole bunch is battling every week. I know they’re going to do that Friday night.”