The Lakeside and Columbia Middle schools' football teams each kept perfect records intact last week to set the stage for a showdown this Tuesday at Panther Stadium.
The Panthers picked up a hard-fought 12-6 victory at Evans Middle School, and the Raiders romped to a 32-0 home-win over Greenbrier Middle School in Tuesday's gridiron action.
"The kids are really pumped about being 4-0," Columbia Middle coach Tony Kramer said. "The game against Lakeside is going to really be something special. Having two unbeaten teams meet head to head doesn't happen too often."
And, having perfect 4-0 marks with only two games remaining certainly adds to the excitement.
"It should be a real good game. The players are looking forward to it," Lakeside Middle coach Dave Pitock said. "Columbia will be tough, but hopefully it will be a pretty even match."
There also will be a Clash of the Titans, Part II: in the final week of the middle school football season, matchups are arranged with the idea of having the top two teams meet head to head Oct. 8.
That mythical middle school championship meeting hinges on each county squad getting three home games - because Lakeside is slated to finish with an away game, and Columbia caps the campaign at home, the Panthers and Raiders will tangle twice.
"No matter what happens, it looks like we'll have to turn around and do it again," Kramer said.
Lakeside Middle's Brandon Barden plunges over the goal line in the first quarter against Evans Middle School.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Evans Middle's strong showing Tuesday almost spoiled the battle of unbeaten teams. The Knights tied Lakeside 6-6 in the second quarter, behind powerful runs from Kevin Millward.
"Their fullback is tough," Pitock said of Millward. "He was just carrying three or four of our players on every run, and he picked up good yardage."
But Lakeside's defense hung tough, with Lance Kennedy intercepting an Evans pass. On offense, Brandon Barden scored on two quarterback sneaks to pace the Panthers.
Meanwhile, at Columbia Middle School, the Raiders had no problem stopping Greenbrier Middle.
"They weren't able to move the ball. We really shut down the run," Kramer said. "Our kids are really coming together and understanding their responsibilities."
Columbia's massive linemen Joe Perez and Benny Herron anchored the defensive front, Andrew Knight picked off a pass, and Kyle Golden gave the Raiders a lift with stellar play at outside linebacker.
Tailback Junior Coley scored three touchdowns for the Raiders, and Columbia quarterback Brandon Gray also found the end zone twice.
In other middle school football action Tuesday, Harlem topped Riverside 28-12. The Bulldogs improved their record to 2-2, while the Eagles fell to 0-4.
At this point, Columbia and Lakeside middles have moved to the head of the class. Both have been equally impressive this season, and now the squads will have an opportunity to see each other up close and personal.
"I think we have real similar teams," Pitock said. "We're big and fast, and they are too. The team with the fewest mistakes will probably win, just like in high school, college and pro football."
In addition to the crucial contest at Panther Stadium, other middle school action this week features Evans (2-2) at Harlem (2-2), and Riverside (0-4) vs. Greenbrier (0-4) at the Brierpatch. All games begin at 5 p.m.
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