Some Lakeside football players boldly predicted an undefeated season back in the spring, when emotions ran high and the Panthers enjoyed the camaraderie of a strong returning cast.
Other area teams likely felt the same way about their chances.
The Panthers haven't breezed through their schedule, but after beating Westside 41-13 Friday, Lakeside coach Jody Grooms took note of how far his team had come.
"All we can do is keep winning," Grooms said. "It's a long way from where we've been."
Grooms changed his coaching strategy on game days after the Panthers' loss to Richmond Academy.
In the last two games, Grooms has been in the press box with a headset, taking in the view from above and relaying plays to assistant coach Jarrett Troxler on the sideline.
The ploy has worked so far.
The Panthers beat Cross Creek 14-0 the first week Grooms moved to the press box. The win against Westside on Friday was the second.
"We needed a spark," Grooms said. "We needed to change things up."
Grooms' new perspective led to a big call in the second quarter against the Patriots. After Westside pulled within a touchdown, Grooms called for some trickery.
Backup quarterback Ben Wilson took a handoff from starter Chad Chandler, faked a double reverse and threw to a wide-open Ricky McMurtrey for a 43-yard touchdown.
McMurtrey said the play had just been installed the week of the game.
"We have two plays like that," McMurtrey said. "They are both wide open (in practice)."
The Panthers scored twice in the first quarter. As they increased their lead, Westside moved away from standout running back Chris Hunter and was forced to throw.
The Patriots had trouble finding a rhythm.
"It put us in a hole," Hunter said. "We were playing catch up."
Hunter said the Panthers were fired up for homecoming -- Lakeside's final home game of the season -- and that the Patriots came out flat.
Panthers defensive back Michael Paul said the team wanted to set the tone early.
"We wanted to hit them in the mouth," he said. "We didn't want to come out soft."
Lakeside (5-3, 4-3) likely will need a little help to secure a playoff berth.
Glenn Hills, which beat the Panthers 34-14 earlier in the season, held the fourth region spot going into Friday's games and would own the tiebreaker over Lakeside if it came to that.
"One game at a time keeps us going," Paul said. "We got to keep winning."
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