Lakota East High School’s football situation has suddenly taken a turn for the better.
Reeling from a last-second loss to Princeton on a 37-yard Hail Mary pass, the Thunderhawks can now count it as a victory after it was announced the Vikings have forfeited that win (and two others) because of an ineligible player.
“I kind of go back and forth on it because I’ve been on the other end too,” East coach Rick Haynes said of his reaction to the news. “I don’t know if anything’s really changed for us. We’ve got to close out games. We’ve still got to work on that.”
The Thunderhawks are now 3-1 overall and 2-0 in the Greater Miami Conference. Colerain, Fairfield and Mason are also perfect in GMC play.
Fairfield (3-1) is coming to the Hawks Nest for homecoming Friday and has a three-game winning streak in the series by a 103-34 margin.
“We’re tough,” East senior quarterback Sean Church said. “If we work as a team, we’ll be fine.”
The Thunderhawks are a run-first team that operates out of the triple option and ranks first in the GMC in rushing offense with 250.3 yards per game. Senior fullback Jack Dobrozsi (83 carries, 374 yards, 11 TDs) and Church (53 carries, 310 yards, three TDs) are leading the way.
The 5-foot-7, 165-pound Church has made a successful move from running back to quarterback. He beat out junior Mark Krajewski for the QB position.
“Well, I was the backup quarterback in third grade, but I don’t think that transitioned to anything,” Church said of his previous experience at QB. “Last winter after the season ended, Coach pulled me aside in the hallway and asked me about switching, and I agreed.
“I was excited at first, then I just got to work and made the transition. I’m feeling comfortable with it. I just need to make sure I’m making the right reads and leading the team.”
Church has been an efficient passer, completing 19-of-28 throws for 293 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
“He’s done well for us,” Haynes said. “He’s athletic, he’s tough and he’s got moxie, so I’m not all that surprised.”
Haynes said East will have to raise its level of play if it hopes to beat Fairfield, which ranks first in the GMC against the run (65.5 yards per game). Last year’s 48-14 FHS victory was a 27-0 affair in the first quarter.
Indians coach Jason Krause hasn’t spent much time contemplating that contest.
“We’re a different team, they’re a different team,” he said. “Malik Vann was a huge factor in our defense, and now he’s gone. But I like the kids that have stepped up this year. We’re playing more as a unit this year to get things done.
“We know what to expect from East. They’ve got tough kids. That’s how Rick coaches. He always puts a tough, hard-nosed, fundamental product on the field.”
Fairfield senior quarterback Jeff Tyus hasn’t played since Aug. 31 because of a shoulder injury. Krause said he couldn’t guarantee that Tyus will start against the Thunderhawks, but listed him as probable.
“I still want to make sure he’s 100 percent healthy before I throw him back in there,” Krause said.
The Fairfield coach said special-teams improvement has been pleasing to see, especially the kickoffs by sophomore Nick Maddy in last week’s 37-3 rout of Lakota West.
Senior slotback Peyton Brown has also emerged as a big-play threat for the Indians. He’s got eight catches for 209 yards and two TDs, one of which was a school-record 93-yarder from junior Sawiaha Ellis against West.
“He’s got big-play potential because of his speed,” Krause said. “It shows we have the ability to spread the ball around a little bit.”
What: Fairfield (3-1, 2-0 GMC) at Lakota East (3-1, 2-0 GMC), 7 p.m.
Where: Hawks Nest, 6840 Lakota Lane, Liberty Township
Series: Lakota East leads 9-7, but Fairfield has won the last three meetings, including 48-14 in 2017
Thank you for reading the Journal-News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Journal-News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.