Lakota East junior Nate Mays scores a touchdown in a win against Middletown this season. Lakota East and Lakota West both head into this Friday’s rivalry with a lot at stake. Photo taken by Barb Trimble of TrimPhotoAndVideo.com.
For the 15th time since Lakota High School split into two schools, students, alumni, faculty, parents and fans will pack a football stadium this Friday at 7:30 p.m. to witness Lakota East and Lakota West battle in one of the region’s top rivalries.
But there is more on the line than just football bragging rights.
There are principals who could end up having their faces drilled with pie or forced to wear the opposing school’s colors, depending on which Lakota school wins the annual food drive. There is also spirit week, as well as pizza parties and other prizes to win in the days leading up to the game.
“Even though we both will compete hard on the field Friday night and in the food drive, at the end of the day, the best of Lakota will shine through,” said Lakota West principal Gary Elgin Card, whose school will host the game this season.
Card is sweating the food drive, which produced more than 19,000 pounds of donated food for Reach Out Lakota last fall, because the losing principal will have to switch spiritwear after the winning school is announced at halftime. That principal will then have don those colors during the second half of the game and on the following Monday at school.
Lakota West senior wide receiver Grant Pence tries to avoid defenders in a 57-44 loss at Colerain last Friday. The loss was the first of the season for the Firebirds, who could lock up a playoff spot with a win against rival Lakota East this week. The Thunderhawks, however, could sneak into the postseason with a win and some help. Photo taken by Greg Loring.
“Our students know I will be in a foul mood if I have to wear anything other than Lakota West gear next week,” Card joked.
When it comes to the game, If history is any indication of what could happen, Lakota East principal Suzanna Davis might be one who needs to worry as her Thunderhawks have lost seven straight to Lakota West and haven’t beaten the Firebirds since 2004.
It did appear last fall, that the streak was going to end until Lakota West quarterback Malik Grove threw a touchdown pass to then senior Kayuane Ross with 31.9 seconds left to go, giving West a 25-20 win.
Last season’s loss was the third time that Lakota East came up just short since its win in 2004, losing to West 30-27 in overtime in 2005 and by the score of 20-19 in 2008.
This season’s game will likely be even more meaningful, as playoff spots are on line. Lakota West (8-1 overall, 5-1 in the Greater Miami Conference), which is No. 6 in the OHSAA Region 4 computer rankings (top 8 teams qualify for postseason), needs a win to lock up its first playoff berth since 2009.
Meanwhile, Lakota East (6-3 overall, 4-2 in the GMC), which is No. 11 in the computer rankings, could possibly sneak in the postseason with a win and some help.
“Obviously, it is something we think about because our goal is play in Week 11, but I know some of that stuff is out of our hands in terms of what other teams do,” said Lakota East head coach Rick Haynes, who hopes to lead East to its first-ever postseason appearance. “So our focus needs to be on playing the best we can and winning this football game.”
In order to win the game, Lakota East will rely heavily on its running game, which is ranked second in the GMC with an average of 292 rushing yards per game. Leading the potent attack is senior Will Mahone with 963 yards and 15 touchdowns on 157 carries. The No. 2 back, Chamada Palmore, who has rushed for 479 yards and two scores on 62 carries, could be back after breaking his knuckles in a game against Sycamore on Oct. 5.
Ironically, Lakota West’s top rusher this season, Mikel Horton, led Lakota East in rushing as a sophomore last season. Horton, whose family moved prior to the school year, has rushed for 955 yards and 12 touchdowns on 187 carries this fall.
Horton is an exception, as many of these student athletes have stayed on the same team for their entire high school careers. On Friday, a total of 48 seniors combined between the two schools will take part in their last East/West game.
“These kids have all grown up playing together,” Lakota West head coach Larry Cox said. “This is sort of the end of football for a lot of them and something they would obviously like to hang their hat on.
“This game will be a heavyweight battle.”
Lakota East Thunderhawks
- Jr.. QB Eric Eichler – 23-of-44 passes for 339 yards, 6 TDs and 1 INT, 470 rushing yards and 8 TDs on 111 carries
- Sr. RB Will Mahone – 963 rushing yards and 15 TDs on 157 carries
- Jr. RB Bobby Brown – 339 rushing yards and 2 TDs on 53 carries, 98 receiving yards and 1 TD on 7 catches
- Jr. OL Jarrett LaRubbio – offers from Akron and Pittsburgh
- Jr. WR/DB/KR Nate Mays – 185 receiving yards and 5 TDs on 12 catches, 25.5 KR average, 3 INTs
- Sr. LB Jake Chestnut – leads team with 52 total tackles (4 for loss) and 2 pass breakups
- Sr. LB Keith Brady – 32 total tackles (4.5 for loss), 1 sack, 2 pass breakups, 1 fumble recovery, 1 forced fumble
- Sr. RB Chamada Palmore – Been out last two weeks with injury, hopes to return – 479 rushing yards and 2 TDs on 62 carries
Lakota West Firebirds
- Jr. QB Malik Grove – 72-of-158 passes for 948 yards, 10 TDs and 6 INTs, 499 rushing yards and 10 TDs on 94 carries
- Jr. RB Mikel Horton – 955 rushing yards and 12 TDs on 187 carries
- Soph. RB Kole Gentry – 435 rushing yards and 6 TDs on 70 carries
- Jr. K/WR/TE Justin Martin – 84 yards and 2 TDs on 7 catches; made 9-of-12 FGs and 34-38 EPs
- Sr. OL Kyle Meadows – offers from top Division I programs including Florida State
- Sr. DL Luke Scott – 4 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 INT, leads team with 44 tackles
- Sr. DB Tyler Cross – 6 INTs (school record), 3 fumble recoveries, 1 forced fumble, 1 blocked kick
- Sr. DB Nick Bengal – Played all season with two broken wrists – leads team with 8 pass breakups, also has 32 total tackles and a blocked kick
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