Lakota East airs it out, routs Middletown in GMC opener

Lakota East quarterback TJ Kathman tossed three touchdown passes in a 49-7 win over Middletown on Friday, Sept. 3, 2020. Nick Graham/STAFF
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Lakota East quarterback TJ Kathman tossed three touchdown passes in a 49-7 win over Middletown on Friday, Sept. 3, 2020. Nick Graham/STAFF

LIBERTY TWP. -- Rick Haynes couldn’t remember if any football team he’s coached has ever thrown three touchdown passes in a half before Friday.

“I’d have to look it up,” said the longtime Lakota East coach and staunch supporter of an option-heavy running game.

He and senior quarterback T.J. Kathman will remember Friday for a while. Kathman threw touchdown passes on the Thunderhawks’ last three possessions of the first half – to three different receivers – as they opened up a 35-0 halftime lead on the way to a 49-7 win over Middletown in the Greater Miami Conference opener for both teams at Lakota East.

ExplorePHOTOS: Middletown vs. Lakota East

“That’s the most fun I’ve ever had on a football field,” said Kathman, adding that the last time he’d thrown as many as three touchdown passes in a game was in a freshman game. He didn’t play in the second half Friday night as junior Aidan Troutman got in some snaps.

The last time the Thunderhawks scored as many as 49 points in a game was on Oct. 10, 2014, in a 49-24 conference win over Princeton. Friday’s margin of victory was Lakota East’s widest since a 56-0 win at Hamilton on Sept. 28, 2012.

Junior fullback Eric Davis, senior wide receiver Caleb VanHooser and senior running back Nick Rabin each scored two touchdowns for the Thunderhawks, whose first-half outburst produced a running clock in the second half. They punted once.

Lakota East added touchdowns on two of the first three times it touched the ball in the second half. VanHooser returned the second-half kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown and Rabin scored on 47-yard run on the first play after a Middletown punt.

The Middies committed three false start penalties before running their first offensive play, setting the tone for a miserable night. Their only touchdown came on their second-last possession, an 8-yard pass from junior quarterback Kellen Davis to senior wide receiver Kendrick Bell with 2:13 left in the game.

“What can I tell you?” coach Don Simpson said. “We were fully prepared. The team seemed ready. We had a good week of practice, and we told ourselves that we wouldn’t make the mistakes that hurt us – and then we started off just like that.”

Davis scored Lakota East’s first touchdown after senior outside linebacker Nate Rosario-Santos blocked the Middies’ punt following their first possession. Junior outside linebacker Jake Reisner also had a defensive highlight with a second-half interception.

The Thunderhawks, who are scheduled to play Hamilton on Friday, have allowed a combined seven points while winning their last two games after losing to Moeller, 42-27, in the opener. Kathman’s biggest takeaway from Friday’s game was the play of the defense, which allowed only 60 yards of total offense in the first half.

“From Moeller to now, it’s like two different defenses,” he said.

“I think they were embarrassed by the Moeller game,” Haynes said after watching a post-game fireworks show.

The Middies, who have yet to score more than seven points in a game while losing their first three, hope to regroup with a home game at Barnitz Stadium against Mason.

“The biggest thing we told them is it’s gut-check time,” Simpson said. “Who’s in it for Middletown and the football team and who isn’t?”