Football fans can be fickle, but right now it's time to jump on the bandwagon at Lakeside High School.
While the Panthers were enduring a winless season last year, the players had to put up with derogatory comments by classmates ranging from "you're pitiful" to "you can't win a game."
Everything changed last weekend when Lakeside opened the 2003 campaign with a 38-21 victory over Westside High School.
On the heels of the win last Saturday at ARC Stadium, and after celebrating Labor Day in style, Lakeside's players returned to class Tuesday and soaked in some praise for a change.
"A lot of kids didn't support us when we didn't win, and it seems now that they're backing us," Lakeside coach Randy Hill said. "That's OK. Hopefully we're going to give them a good wagon to ride on."
Hill even received congratulatory phone calls from rival prep coaches, as Greenbrier's Mickey Derrick and Harlem's Jimmie Lewis chimed in. Evans coach Marty Jackson watched the win over Westside and met Hill on the sideline to offer a post-game pat on the back.
Actually, Harlem, Greenbrier and Evans played a part in Lakeside's Saturday-night success.
For his second season as head coach, Hill changed his team's offense this year to a triple-option attack employed by Lewis, and the Panthers gained inspiration from watching the season-opening contest between Evans and Greenbrier at Blanchard Stadium.
Last week, Lakeside got a chance to watch film of the Westside game, and the players liked what they saw.
The Lakeside football team watches the film from their game against Westside. The Panthers broke through for their first win since 2001.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
They clapped for good offensive plays, and took special delight when quarterback Jimmy Johnson faked out several Patriots en route to a nice gain. They even had a chuckle when the defense forced a Westside turnover, and Panther lineman Donovan Lowe pointed the wrong way.
Lakeside may be going in the right direction, but there is plenty of room for improvement, and no time for complacency.
"You always have to battle overconfidence," Hill said. "When you lose you work hard and when you win you've got to work twice as hard. I told the guys after the game, that's great, but that's one down and we've got nine more to go, and hopefully the playoffs someday."
Playoff talk would have been laughable two weeks ago, but after beating Westside with an impressive offensive display, the postseason possibilities are no joke for the Panthers.
"Our attitude was changed before the win. The players probably worked harder this year than they ever have at Lakeside High School," Hill said. "We had a team that didn't know how to win, and they played the whole game and poured on 21 points in the fourth quarter. To me, for a team that's never won before, that was dynamic."
In 2002, Lakeside's highest point total came in its 36-24 loss to Greenbrier. This year the Panthers have more experience, additional speed, and a better offensive game-plan, as Westside could attest.
Junior fullback Carl Burrow paced the Panthers with more than 190 rushing yards and two touchdowns, but balance was the key to whipping Westside. Johnson, Philip Sadler and Tosin Fawibe also picked up yards on the ground and each found the end zone.
Along with moving the chains, Lakeside didn't commit any turnovers and consistently controlled possession with sustained drives.
"We moved the ball better than I expected. I was real happy that our offense did so well," Hill said. "We had four players score touchdowns. We had one play where Westside's defense didn't even know where the ball carrier was. The triple-option gives teams problems."
The only problem Lakeside had last week was killing time. The Panthers had an open date Friday night, as did Evans. The Columbia County rivals will meet this Friday at Panther Stadium.
"That's the only thing on our minds right now - beating Evans," Hill said. "That would be a big plus heading into our region games. We want to keep winning; that's the bottom line."
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