By MATT VINES, Journal Sports
MANGHAM – Making its first playoff appearance since 2020, Lakeview will have plenty of other numbers to remember besides Thursday’s final score – a 54-14 loss against No. 6 seed Mangham in the Division IV Non-Select playoffs.
The No. 27 seed Gators (3-8) clawed their way into the postseason in head coach Andy Boone’s first season, which gave running back Omarion Pierr one more chance to break the school’s single-season rushing record.
He did that, gaining 70 yards when he needed 15 yards. While Pierr’s official season total won’t be finalized until Friday, he finished with around 1,575 rushing yards and was among the state’s leaders for most of the season.
Pierr’s rushing touchdown, his 17th of the season, early in the second quarter allowed Lakeview to hang around down 16-6 at Mangham (6-4), but the Dragons found another gear to pull away before halftime.
Mangham scored 32 straight points in the second quarter to build an insurmountable 48-6 halftime lead before the teams split a pair of touchdowns in the second half.
Lakeview senior Kaleb Collins scored a rushing touchdown in his final outing in a Gators’ uniform, adding to his single-season program record that now stands at 23 scores. He neared the 1,500-yard rushing mark and joined Pierr among the state’s leaders before missing time midseason with an injury.
But the Dragons’ defensive front seven largely bottled up Pierr and Collins on Thursday.
“Our defensive front seven has been a strength for us, and our defensive coordinator Marcus Yanez had a great gameplan,” said Mangham coach Scott Wilcher. “Lakeview has some tendencies, and Yanez had our guys prepared.”
Mangham’s large offensive line paved the way for both the rushing and passing game, clearing a path to the second round for a program that’s appeared in the semifinals in two of the last three seasons and in the Superdome three times in the 2010s.
“We’re really big up front, and we can run and throw,” Wilcher said. “Our running backs Isaiah McFarland and Jay Myles both played well tonight.
The Gators were coming off an impressive offensive performance this past week against state power Many by piling up 300 rushing yards and scoring a district-high 26 points.
But Lakeview couldn’t replicate that success Thursday, and Mangham cashed in on excellent field position created by Lakeview’s creed to never punt.
Wilcher said he worked his hands team all week to prepare for Lakeview’s onside kicks, but the best defense for that strategy was not to allow Lakeview in the end zone to spur kickoffs.
“We definitely put a lot of extra attention on our hands team,” Wilcher said. “But we were also confident in our defensive game plan, and we didn’t plan on Lakeview scoring a lot of touchdowns tonight.”
While Lakeview’s offense was almost exclusively on the ground this season, the Gators did log one big passing play to set up their first score.
Quarterback Lamarrion Rushing connected with Kelton Carter for a 55-yard strike in which Carter stretched over his head to snag the ball.
If defenses have to account for even a slight passing threat next season, that should create space for Lakeview’s explosive ground game.
Lakeview does end the season on a seven-game losing streak, but the Gators should face more of the teams in which they had early-season success.
Although the 2024-2026 classifications aren’t final, Lakeview is slated to move down to Class 1A and will likely join St. Mary’s District 3-1A.
All three of Lakeview’s wins this season came against District 3-1A opponents in Montgomery, Northwood-Lena and LaSalle.
While the Gators won’t escape some of the state’s elite 1A programs in Logansport and St. Mary’s, Lakeview will likely end its district losing streak that dates back to 2019.