It won’t be known until early Sunday morning when the final OHSAA Region 4 computer rankings are released, but Lakota East may have spoiled Lakota West’s season with a 33-21 upset win at Lakota West High School Friday night.
Heading into the game No. 6 in the region 4 computer rankings (top eight qualify for postseason), Lakota West could have locked up its first playoff berth since 2009 with a win over its school district rival.
Meanwhile, Lakota East, which entered the week No. 11 in the computer rankings, will have to wait and see if it qualified for the postseason for the first time in school history.
“I have to be honest, I have no idea what has to happen (to make the postseason),” Lakota East head coach Rick Haynes said. “When I was at Colerain (as an assistant coach), we were always working on the projections and we didn’t even do that this year because I wanted our kids to be worried about playing well tonight.”
Whether East makes the postseason or not, the 26 seniors and other Lakota East athletes that make up the roster are proud that they were able to snap a seven-game losing streak against Lakota West.
The win is also East’s first over the Firebirds since 2004.
“We really have a great group of seniors this year and we knew we had to do this because it had just been way too long of a streak,” Lakota East senior linebacker Jake Chestnut said. “As our coaches have been saying all week, ‘we have the right group at the right time, at the right point of history to break that streak.’”
After falling behind 7-0 early in the first quarter, Lakota East senior running Chamada Palmore evened the score with a 25-yard touchdown run. Palmore, who played for the first time since breaking his left knuckle in two places during a game against Sycamore on Oct. 5, finished with 69 rushing yards on eight carries.
“Chamada had worked so hard in the offseason and was so improved from last year. It was just a shame that he had to miss the last two games for us. You could just see the anguish on his face when he couldn’t play,” Haynes said. “I was just so happy for him when the doctor cleared him to get back out there.”
Palmore wasn’t the only runner out there for the Thunderhawks, as senior running back Will Mahone finished with 102 yards on 21 carries and junior quarterback Eric Eichler rushed for 71 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
Eichler also scored through the air when he found senior Keith Brady for a 26-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter that put East ahead 21-7.
After Lakota West added a touchdown by way of a 16-yard pass from junior quarterback Malik Grove to junior wide receiver Tyler Jones late in the second quarter, Lakota East got on the board first in the second half when senior safety Rob Harpring returned a punt 56 yards for a touchdown to give East a 27-14 advantage.
West would add another score when Grove scored on a 1-yard run, cutting the lead to 27-21 in the third quarter.
However, trailing with 2 minutes left in the game, senior Nate Mays clinched the win for Lakota East when he intercepted Grove and returned it 25 yards for the touchdown.
For West, who started the year 8-0 for the first time in school history, the loss likely eliminates the team from postseason play and ends the 2012 season with back-to-back losses to Colerain and Lakota East.
“This team deserves a better fate,” Lakota West head coach Larry Cox said.
“I think we are a playoff team, but it is not looking good. That is a bitter pill to swallow because if we can take the No. 1 seed (Colerain) to the end of a game then we deserve to be there … but the system will not allow it.”
LW – Horton 13-yard run (Martin kick)
LE – Palmore 25-yard run (Smith kick)
LE – Eichler 3-yard run (Smith kick)
LE – Brady 26-yard pass from Eichler (Smith kick)
LW – Jones 16-yard pass from Grove (Martin kick)
LE – Harpring 56-yard punt return (kick block)
LW – Grove 1-yard run (Martin Kick)
LE – Mays 25-yard touchdown return (kick failed)