Lakota West caps big week with another big win

Firebirds move to 7-0 with 37-7 win over Mason

WEST CHESTER TWP. -- Homecoming festivities, a No. 2 ranking in the Associated Press Division I state poll, a Friday morning national television appearance – Lakota West football had a lot going on this week.

That’s not including Friday night’s Greater Miami Conference game against Mason.

The Firebirds seemed to need a half to shake off the distraction, but led by senior safety and Ohio State commit Malik Hartford, their defense at first kept them in the game and then provided the spark that allowed them to pull away to a 37-7 win over Comets at Firebird Field.

ExplorePHOTOS: Lakota West vs. Mason

“We had the pep rally, which was huge,” Hartford said after blocking a Mason punt to set up one touchdown and returning an interception for another, all in a span of 50 seconds. “One of our teammates won ‘Musical Chairs,” and we all stormed the court. That shows the kind of brotherhood we are, but getting back to the distractions, we have to learn how to play through them.”

“When you’re going to Ohio State, you’d better make plays like that,” Lakota West coach Tom Bolden said.

Senior quarterback Mitch Bolden, the GMC passing yardage leader going into the game with 1,035, weathered five sacks to go 15-of-21 for 340 yards and four touchdowns to four different receivers, leading Lakota West to sole possession of first place as the conference’s only undefeated team. The Firebirds are scheduled to play at Fairfield on Friday. The Indians, who beat Hamilton 34-13 on Friday, were undefeated and ranked eighth in the state before losing to Princeton on Sept. 23.

The Firebirds’ first touchdown came after an interception by senior defensive back Ben Minich, and the scoring drive included a fake punt from the Firebirds’ 49-yard line and run for a first down by Minich, a Notre Dame commit, on a decision he makes on his own.

“He’s athletic enough to make those plays,” Tom Bolden said.

Junior linebacker Kai Woolfork got Mason into position for its only touchdown with an interception at Lakota West’s 30. Senior Nicholas Sailers converted with a 1-yard run.

Lakota West received the second-half kickoff and, after recovering a fumbled handoff on the first play, took a 16-7 lead on Bolden’s 8-yard pass to senior wide receiver Trent Lloyd, who finished with eight catches for 133 yards and led Firebird rushers with 41 yards on eight carries.

The Firebirds took command with their late third-quarter flurry, starting with Hartford’s block of a punt that was recovered by Minich at Mason’s 8.

“I almost got the first one,” Hartford said. “Then they started blocking down on me. On that one, I thought I saw something and said to (freshman linebacker Cam Thomas) ‘Switch with me,’ and I got it.”

“Watching film all week, we thought we could get one,”  Tom Bolden said.

Lakota West took advantage with Mitch Bolden’s 9-yard pass to junior running back Eudes Gonzalez Jr. On Mason’s first play after the kickoff, from the 23-yard line, Hartford jumped an out route and returned the interception for a touchdown.

Firebirds’ senior linebacker Aaron Khayo recovered a Comets fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter and Mitch Bolden got the game to a running clock with a 3-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Brennan Remy with 9:13 remaining.

Lakota West limited Mason to one completion on 10 passes and came up with two interceptions.

“That’s what we’ve done all year,” Tom Bolden said. “We’ve been making big plays all year.

“We had a lot going on this week,” he added. “Once we got to the second half, we played like we know we can play.”

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