St. Mary’s hosts second Class 3A challenger tonight; Lakeview seeks win at Montgomery

By DWAIN SPILLMAN JR., Journal Sports

Coming off a huge win in Week 1, St. Mary’s is set to battle its second opponent in as many weeks from the Class 3A ranks as the Panthers from Buckeye make a stop at Turpin Stadium tonight. Kickoff is 7 o’clock.

The Tigers, a constant threat for championships in District 3-1A, dispelled Class 3A powerhouse Abbeville a week ago (21-18) for its first victory over the Wildcats in three tries. This time around coach Aaron York’s team will battle another much larger school, but resting on the laurels of their major victory in the first outing of the 2023 campaign is not a motivator for the second week of action. Continuing to build and get better provides plenty of motivation.

“The challenge is not to accept this (beating Abbeville) as our best we have this season,” York said earlier this week. “We have to grow each week and get better. If we can do that, then this is going to be a really good year for us.”

Those comments came after SMS bolstered its position in the power point ratings with the victory over the ‘Cats. An additional win this week could also improve the Tigers’ standing in the polls as well. That matters at the end of a season in relation to seeding for the playoffs.

“We have to get better, play smarter and be more disciplined,” York added. “But, it is hard to top the effort we gave last Friday. Our kids were very receptive to a big ballgame and they didn’t let it overwhelm them. We definitely have to figure out how to get back to that energy level each week. I was so proud of our effort.”

Looking at this week’s opponent, St. Mary’s gathered wins over the Panthers for the last two seasons. Buckeye was 3-7 a year ago and posts an overall mark of 8-27 over the last three seasons but York was quick to point out that is the past and this is the present. The Panthers dispatched Block last week by a 46-20 count on the road to begin their 2023 campaign.

“Buckeye will be well-coached and very disciplined,” York said. “Their coach is telling their kids this could be the one, the one time they can win. We are telling our kids we have to rise up after a big win and not let that happen.”

Leaving the Swamp north of Campti, the Gators will hit the road for a second straight contest. Lakeview fell to D’Arbonne Woods 42-12 in the season opener. The Gators face a familiar opponent just a short distance down Highway 71 at Montgomery this Friday night. Under first-year and veteran coach Andy Boone, the Gators are just looking for a victory.

“We just need to win, it’s that simple,” Boone said. “A win would really go a long way for us physically and mentally.”

The Gators did in fact move the fall offensively, gaining 203 yards rushing against D’Arbonne Woods. However, three fumbles in the red zone led to the host team going up 28-0 before Lakeview hit the scoreboard. The Gators matched the Timberwolves score for score in the second half and did not record a turnover in the final two quarters of play. Another positive for the Gators from the initial kickoff this season was that Lakeview also converted all fourth-down attempts. You see, the Gators do not punt the ball under the guidance of their new boss man.

“We just have to hold onto the football,” Boone concluded. “We moved the ball down the field without question. It is an absolute must that we finish drives with points. We have to stop making the mistakes that kill drives. We are working hard this week to just hold onto the ball. We are reviewing good decision making both on offense and defense and I believe we can be successful when we clean up the little things as well.”

The host Montgomery Tigers, a regular on the Gators’ schedule, were dispatched last week at Grant 49-13. Lakeview holds all three victories over Montgomery dating back to 2019, not playing in 2021. Most recently, Lakeview thumped Montgomery, 33-6, at the Swamp last year.

Kickoff in Montgomery is also scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday night.