Story by John Blake
Photos by Ryan Kaczmarski
This wasn't exactly what Lakewood had in mind to start West Shore Conference play.
The Rangers opened league play Friday night, but couldn't keep up with Avon's high-powered offense during a 35-0 loss at Joe Firment Stadium.
The host Eagles, unbeaten on the season at 4-0, jumped out to a 21-0 first quarter lead and never looked back.
"Yeah, it was tough," admitted Lakewood head coach Michael Ribar, whose team fell to 2-2 on the season.
"We came out, and we knew what we had to do," Ribar said. "We did not give them the short field the whole night, but when we got down in here, we couldn't finish.
"Those are opportunities that you can't let get away against a good team," he said.
Avon took its opening possession 89 yards for a touchdown in just about five minutes. It was that kind of night for the Rangers. Quarterback Jake Sopko, running back Gerett Choat and the rest of the Avon spread offense picked apart Lakewood's defensive unit.
Sopko, 13 of 19 for 281 yards in the first half alone, finished 16 of 23 for 305 yards. He connected with six different receivers on the night, with Zack Torbert leading the way with 123 yards on four catches. Choat added 199 total yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns.
"We knew that this team could run the ball fairly well," said Avon head coach Mike Elder, whose team maintained its WSC four-plus season winning streak.
"We didn't want them to play keep away from us," Elder continued. "So for us to maximize our offense in the first half and get the early lead was nice.
"I'm proud of our kids, and I thought we matched their intensity. Avon is a big game for everybody, and Lakewood's kids played really hard. They never quit, that's a sign of a well-coached team," he said.
When Sopko wasn't putting the ball in the hands of his talented receivers, Choat was carrying the load in the backfield and making the Rangers miss. On the Eagles' second drive, he took a short pass from Sopko and ran it 75 yards for a score.
Still in the opening quarter, the Eagles needed just three plays to go 61 yards. The junior running back reached the end zone for the third time with a 31-yard run to put Avon on top, 21-0, with 1:39 to play.
"Gerett Choat is a pretty special football player," Elder said. "He's had kind of a slow start to the season because we haven't needed him, and I think there's only so much tread on the tires.
"I hope all the news people understand that at the end of the year when they start comparing stats that this kid is pretty good. Really good. I hope people understand that, but just looking at it statistically he's not one of the best backs in the area.
"But we know he is," he said.
Sopko's second touchdown pass came late in the half when he connected with Torbert on an impressive touch pass down the middle for 70 yards. Choat's fourth and final end zone trip came on a 2-yard run near the end of the third quarter.
Lakewood had a few nice possessions on the night, including a 60-yard drive to open the third. But the Rangers just couldn't manage to close any of them out due to penalties or turnovers. A fourth and 2 from Avon's 11-yard line was stopped short.
"In the second half, we came out and put a seven-minute drive together. That's how we play," Ribar said. "We probably won the time of possession in this game, and that's one of our goals every game.
"We're disappointed. It's not how we wanted it to be," Ribar said. "But I'm proud of the boys. They came out and played the second half, they didn't lay down. We were playing hard football.
"We played a good football team, we knew that. We've got some things to work on and now we're gonna get ready for Bay," he added.
Lakewood running back Michael Goolsby recorded 83 total yards, including 10 carries for 50 yards. The officials went to a running clock after the Eagles' fifth touchdown with 52 seconds left in the third quarter.
"We got 89 guys on our team and we played a lot of those 2s in the second half," Elder said.
"The new running clock rule is a good rule, and I'm not complaining about it," Elder said. "But I got a lot of kids who would like to play on Friday night. As a result of a running clock, you really don't get to empty your bench anymore in high school football.
"Those kids have to play in the JV game, but they understand that and know why the rule is in affect. It's to keep kids safe and healthy," he added.
Avon travels to Midview next week in a battle of unbeaten teams, while Lakewood tries to bounce back at Bay.
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Click on the camera below to view Ryan's photos from this game: