The rushing statistics are impressive, the long plays from scrimmage are spectacular, and the unbeaten record is evidence of the offensive fireworks display.
But there's more to the Lakeside High School football team than meets the eye, and that was perfectly clear last week at the Brierpatch.
Lakeside didn't beat Greenbrier High School with smoke and mirrors. Yes, there was a fair share of heroics from the Panthers, and the 35-28 victory over the Wolfpack spoke volumes.
Still, Friday night's big Region 3-AAAA win was built on things unseen.
Like heart. And confidence. Those two intangibles add up to a 3-0 record for Lakeside.
How else do you explain what happened in the fourth quarter at Greenbrier?
Lakeside was clinging to a seven-point lead with under five minutes to play. The Panthers faced fourth-and-inches from their own 45-yard line, which meant it was time to punt.
"In a situation like that, with inches, you've got to go for it," Lakeside coach Randy Hill said. "It's do or die."
The Panthers picked up a first down on a quarterback sneak by Jimmy Johnson.
Lakeside didn't score on that drive, but the gamble validated what Johnson and the Panthers were thinking all along.
A group of Lakeside students painted themselves in the school's colors for the game against Greenbrier.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"We knew we were going to win," Johnson said. "We had to."
Lakeside did what it had to do during crunch time at the Brierpatch, and that comes down to heart and confidence, plus a stable of explosive backs.
In the first half, Tosin Fawibe scored on a 48-yard run, and Philip Sadler added two touchdowns, including a 51-yard romp and a 70-yard scoring reception.
Greenbrier countered by converting a pair of Panther turnovers into touchdowns during a 20-point second quarter, but the Pack still trailed 21-20 at the half.
"I though we looked pretty good on offense, and at time we looked pretty good on defense," Greenbrier coach Mickey Derrick said. "We gave up too many big plays."
The real killer was Lakeside's scoring drive in the third quarter.
After the Panthers' defense held the Pack on the opening possession of the second half, Lakeside's offense turned in a 15-play, 74-yard march capped by Sadler's short run.
"They did a pretty good job of stopping the option, but we still have the running game going," Johnson said. "Our line did a great job tonight, especially on that drive in the third quarter."
Other than two fumbles in the first half, Lakeside executed its game plan to perfection. The Panthers, led by Fawibe's 135 yards, piled up 291 yards on the ground, and the offense drew only one penalty all night.
"Everybody thinks it's our option that we're running, and it is being effective, but the one thing we've worked on is not making mistakes," Hill said.
Greenbrier's Eugene Rogers catches a pass near the goal line to set up his team's first score against Lakeside.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Lakeside has scored 30 points or more in each of its three games this season, but defense helped seal the win at Greenbrier.
With under a minute to go, the Pack drove into Lakeside territory and was poised to send the contest into overtime. Lakeside's Chris Drayton ended that threat with his second interception of the game - the only times Pack quarterback Brooks Robinson has been picked off in 2003.
As time expired, so did Greenbrier's two-year reign in Columbia County. The Pack had beaten both Evans and Lakeside the past two years, but this season the Panthers earned bragging right with victories over their county rivals.
Derrick gracefully abdicated the throne, saying, "I've got to give it to them. Lakeside has a good football team. Coach Hill and his staff have done an excellent job preparing them this year."
Greenbrier dropped to 2-1 (1-1 in Region 3-AAAA) heading into this Friday's region battle against Butler at Lumpkin Road Stadium (7:30 p.m. kickoff).
Lakeside is set for a 7:30 p.m. game against Thomson this Friday at Panther Stadium.
"Thomson's coming to our house, and we owe them," Hill said. "We haven't beaten them in a number of years. We're looking forward to them coming to Lakeside High School."
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