Gators’ season ends with valiant effort against No. 1 Tigers

Lakeview High School’s frustrating football season ended Friday night in all-too-familiar fashion, with injuries ramping up the degree of difficulty to an unreasonable level.

Top-ranked Many didn’t need any help, but the Tigers got it, and took advantage in a dominant 50-0 win at Lakeview.

The visitors took command in the game’s first eight minutes, which prompted both head coaches to agree to use a running clock for the rest of the contest.

With injuries sidelining standout quarterback Dillon Pikes and his backup, the Gators started senior James Pennington behind center against Many. But he sustained a hand injury early into action and left the game in the first period.

“When we lost James, we couldn’t stretch the field with the passing game, which you have to do against Many,” said Lakeview coach Brandon Helms. “They were able to stack the box and shut us down.”

The Gators were held to just two first downs and a net of minus 14 offensive yards. It was not because of a lack of effort, however; just the outstanding play of the state’s No. 1 ranked team, the reigning Class 2A state champion Tigers.

“Our kids continued to play hard and battle,” said Helms. “I am amazed at their resilience.”

Lakeview finished the game playing its fourth quarterback, and seventh running back, of the season.

“Their depth just wore at us,” said Helms. “We played a lot of young kids this year, mostly out of necessity due to all the injuries.”

Many won its ninth straight, improving to 9-1 and winning the District 3-2A championship with a 6-0 record. Lakeview finished its season at 1-9 and 0-6.

The Tigers took advantage of a fumble recovery, then a blocked punt on the next Gators’ possession, to jump ahead 15-0 just four minutes into the game. Many doubled the lead in a 66-second span later in the quarter on the third and fourth touchdown runs of the night by the state’s third-ranked rushing leader, London Williams, and opened a 29-0 advantage.

The coaches agreed to use a running clock the rest of the way.

A 96-yard interception return TD midway through the second quarter halted Lakeview’s best scoring chance, which was created by a long interception return itself. Many led 36-0.

The Many second-team backfield took over after halftime, quickly moving the score to 43-0. A fourth-period tally pushed the Tigers over their 49-point scoring average.

The contest was the final LHS football appearance for six 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 played every position but offensive and defensive line.