GMC showdown set between 5-1 teams Friday night
Kevin Goheen reports:
Here’s a bold prediction for Friday night: the football will not be in the air much when Lakota East hosts Sycamore.
“I wouldn’t think this will be a pass-fest,” said Lakota East head coach Rick Haynes.
The top two rushing teams in the Greater Miami Conference meet Friday night at Lakota East in a game that will not only have league ramifications but will have a significant bearing on the Division I, Region 4 postseason field as well.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Sycamore is ranked No. 5 in this week’s Enquirer area coaches’ poll, with Lakota East next at No. 6. Lakota East is sixth in this week’s Harbin computer ratings, with Sycamore right behind the Thunderhawks at No. 7.
Both teams are 5-1 overall. Sycamore is 2-1 in the GMC with its loss coming against No. 1 Colerain two weeks ago. Lakota East is one of three unbeatens in the league along with Colerain and No. 3 Lakota West. Due to the rotation of schedules inside the GMC, Lakota East and Colerain do not play this season but the two Lakotas will end the regular season at Lakota West on Oct. 26.
The teams have combined for just 88 pass attempts this season while running the ball 569 times. Haynes was a longtime assistant coach running the triple-option offense under Kerry Coombs at Loveland and Colerain. He’s in his third season as the head coach at Lakota East and quickly turned the Thunderhawks into a genuine conference and playoff contender.
“We’ve got 28 seniors and a lot of them are starters,” said Haynes. “Several of them have been starting for two years and several are just football players and they’ve been in the weight room with us for two years and you can see the difference.”
Beating Middletown two weeks ago, 34-20, helped drive home Haynes’ daily teachings that games are won in practice. It was the first win for Lakota East against the Middies since 2005.
“It helped them believe because we had a pretty good week of practice,” said Haynes.
Junior quarterback Eric Eichler triggers the offense with senior running Will Mahone doing the bulk of the damage on the ground. Mahone has rushed for 612 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Lakota East leads the GMC in rushing, averaging 318.2 yards per game. Sycamore is second in the league with an average of 296 yards per game.
Junior quarterback Greg Simpson leads the GMC with 1,087 yards rushing. He’s been busier throwing the ball in comparison to Eichler, completing 27 of 57 attempts for 473 yards and six touchdowns, but it’s what he does with his legs and decision-making in his first season at the position that has impressed coach Scott Dattilo. Simpson gained 647 yards as a running back last season.
“His football IQ is really high. As a running back you don’t always see that because they know where to go when they get the football and run with it,” said Dattilo. “At quarterback you’ve got to be cerebral and we put a lot on him.”
The two teams also bring two of the area’s best defenses into the game. Lakota East is first in the GMC in yards allowed, giving up an average of 240.7, while Sycamore is No. 2 at 242.7 yards per game. The Thunderhawks have allowed 14.3 points per game, third in the conference, while Sycamore is fourth at 15.5 points per game.
“This is a giant game,” said Dattilo. “Both teams want to get into the playoffs, both teams need it for (Harbin) points because one of us will gather a nice record. And it keeps one of us one mess up by Colerain from being on top. You don’t bank on that but you know it isn’t going to happen twice.”