It's easy to kick a man when he's down. That saying succinctly describes the situation of the struggling Lakeside High School football team.
Lakeside's B.B. Brandenburg takes the handoff from quarterback Riahard Flakes during practice last week.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
After the Panthers dropped to 0-6 with a loss at Baldwin High School, Braves coach Jesse Hicks delivered a swift kick to the Panthers.
"I don't care how bad a team is, you don't want to give them any momentum," Hicks said of allowing Lakeside to score their single touch down late in the first half of the Oct. 11 game in Milledgeville. The Braves won the game 31-6.
When that quote from a game story in the Macon Telegraph was relayed last week to Sam Jasinski, the Lakeside junior fired back.
"That's disappointing," Jasinski said during a break in practice Wednesday. "Physically, we came out in the first half and surprised Baldwin. They were scared. We played hard, and in the second half we beat ourselves."
It's one thing for a coach to let the word "bad" slip into a sentence concerning a winless opponent; but for Lakeside senior Johnny Los, it's much worse when the criticism comes on your home turf.
"That's all you hear," Los said. "We don't have much school support, school spirit. But we don't let that get us down. We just come out here and do our best. I know we haven't had the best season so far, but I wouldn't ask for a different coach or any other teammates. I wouldn't trade 'em for anybody else in the region."
Lakeside had an open date last week, and the Panthers used the time off to regroup and prepare for this week's game against Butler High School.
"We haven't given up, that's for sure," junior quarterback Richard Flake said. "Everybody works hard at practice. We're working out butts off everyday trying to get that win."
Although there are only four games remaining this season, first-year Lakeside coach Randy Hill says there is enough time for the Panthers to salvage some respect.
"If we can win out, we could end up with one of the top four records in the region," Hill said. "The team chemistry is still good. Playing hard and getting beat is tough, but the players have kept their spirits up. We don't talk about the losing aspect - we talk about how bad we want to win."
Hill faced an uphill battle in his first campaign as head coach. He inherited a squad that lost more than more than 20 seniors, and three other potential starters transferred.
Then, early in the 2002 season, senior fullback/linebacker Phillip Choat went out with a broken collarbone, leaving the Panthers with only nine seniors in action.
"We have so many sophomores starting on varsity, and they're learning," Los said. "We couldn't ask for more from them. They're doing their best and going all out. They're playing like men."
Part of the learning process is making mistakes. That's why Flake isn't blaming bad breaks for the losing streak.
"Most of the time we're just shooting ourselves in the foot. Little mistakes have killed us."
Lakeside also is using the open date to formulate a specific game plan for Friday's Region 3-AAAA battle with Butler at Panther Stadium - and the path to victory is perfectly clear.
"We're looking for less mistakes; that's the biggest thing," Los said. "We want to drive the ball and have a good passing game. We plan on picking it up this week. We're going to come out and show Butler who's boss."
If Los and his Lakeside teammates achieve that goal and finally break through in 2002, there's going to be a celebratory atmosphere Friday night on Blue Ridge Drive.
"The feeling would be a mixture of joy and appreciation for my teammates," Jasinski said. "They've worked so hard through a tough season and still stuck together to get that 'W' in the end. We're going to finish this year hard and I think we're going to win out. We're going to get these next four games and turn this thing around."
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