Lakota West overcomes slow start to beat Lakota East

Unbeaten Firebirds advance to face Colerain in regional semifinals next Friday

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The Battle of the Lakotas looked like it might live up to the rivalry hype for about one quarter, but West picked up steam on offense in the second quarter and cruised the rest of the way to keep its unbeaten season going.

Lakota West overcame a sloppy start, and quarterback Mitch Bolden had a hand in three straight touchdowns as the Firebirds took control for a 31-14 win over district rival Lakota East in a Division I, Region 4 quarterfinal Friday at Firebird Stadium.

East’s offense managed just one touchdown -- in the fourth quarter when the game already was decided -- and its defense gave up 280 yards rushing, including 141 yards from Firebirds running back Cameron Goode and 120 yards from Bolden.

“It’s crazy because I was over there in the right side of the stands watching the game (between East and West last year),” said Goode, a transfer from Northwest High School. “Now I’m here, had a good game, it’s like a dream come true.”

The Thunderhawks (4-4) had opened the game forcing a pair of three-and-outs and ended up getting on the board on the second one when West punter Gavin Bui fumbled the snap and Caleb Vanhosser recovered for a touchdown. That gave the visitors a 7-0 lead with 5:33 left in the first quarter, and the Firebirds fumbled again at the East 20-yard line the next drive.

By the second quarter, though, West (7-0) had settled down offensively and Bolden found Adrian Davis on a 13-yard touchdown pass to tie the game with 7:41 left in the half. East then went three-and-out, and West kept the momentum as Bolden found Trent Lloyd open down the middle for a 31-yard score.

The Firebirds never lost the lead from there. Bolden ran for a touchdown in the third quarter, and Goode’s 35-yard touchdown run put the game away with a 31-7 lead early in the fourth quarter.

“Those (first-quarter turnovers) are things you can’t do, but, I think we overcame it,” coach Tom Bolden said. “I’m proud of the kids. They didn’t dwell on it. They stayed locked in and we made plays.”

East managed one last score on T.J. Kathman’s 15-yard pass to Jack Hartmann with 6:14 left, accounting for the first touchdown West’s defense has allowed in 15 quarters. West had posted two straight shutouts going into Friday’s matchup.

The Hawks had chances earlier in the game. They reached the 19-yard line at the end of the first half but were stopped on third down, and Trevor Hoffman’s 36-yard field goal attempt was tipped by Alex Afari to prevent it from having a chance. In the third quarter, East went for it on fourth-and-24 from the 30 and couldn’t come up with the catch in the end zone.

Kathman finished with 170 yards passing and 26 yards on the ground, while Josh Thornhill added 42 yards rushing.

“We just can’t come down here and not come away with points,” East coach Rick Haynes said. “Twice we did that, and especially against a defense like that, you can’t miss those opportunities and that’s what happened. They played great. I thought they played really well offensively.”

West’s defense was led by Kam Vargas' eight tackles and half a sack, and Silas Walters' seven tackles.

Mitch Bolden finished was 6 of 8 passing for 74 yards and two touchdowns to go along with his big performance running the ball.

“He took a huge step forward, running the ball, throwing the ball,” coach Bolden said of his son Mitch. “When things got a little rough, for a sophomore to kind of take it upon himself like that, I’m awful proud of that.”

West advances to the regional semifinals, where coach Bolden will once again face his former team, Greater Miami Conference foe Colerain. The Firebirds beat the Cardinals 10-0 in the season opener.

“It will be another knock-down, drag-out game,” coach Bolden said. “They’ve got a great defense, we’ve got a great defense. That will be a ball game where whoever takes care of the football is going to win.”

As for East, the season might not be done yet. Haynes said he planned to meet with the senior captains Saturday to determine if they want to try to find another game to play, as the Ohio High School Athletic Association is allowing teams to add contests since the regularseason was shortened to six games.

The Hawks were carrying a four-game winning streak into Friday.

“We’re excited about next year,” Haynes said. “We’ve got a lot of young kids. We just have to figure out what we want to do from here, if we want to play and see who’s out there, but we want to make a decision that’s best for our football team.”

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