While the offenses sputtered around like cars on a cold morning, Friday night's opener between Westside and Lakeside showed that defense - at least early in the season - will have to do most of the work for both teams.
Aundra Ellison's 12-yard run with 4:35 left in the first quarter stood as the game's only points as the Patriots spoiled Lakeside head coach Ed Koester's debut as the Panthers coach.
While Westside flirted with several scoring opportunities, the Patriots were never able to cash in. Instead, the offense found itself enjoying the defensive effort.
The Patriots (1-0) held Lakeside to just 101 yards of total offense, including minus-eight yards in the fourth quarter, to pick up the victory in what could be a promising season.
However, the game wasn't secured until Keith Hogans and Jesse Suarez sacked Lakeside quarterback Klay Koester for a 12-yard loss to put the Panthers (0-1) in a desperate fourth-and-22 situation from their own 20. Koester's Hail Mary pass was intercepted by Westside's Tony LeZotte at midfield.
"I'd like to thank the Lord and my coaches for helping me keep my head straight," said Hogans, who fumbled the ball three times on offense before combining on the game's biggest play.
"They helped me out because I almost lost it."
While the fans were treated to a defensive showdown, the game was sloppy. The two schools combined for four lost fumbles, five interceptions, three missed field goals and 21 penalties.
Lakeside's spread offense never got on track but senior fullback Matt Nixon was the Panthers' bright spot on offense, finishing with 111 yards on 22 carries. Lakeside moved the ball inside Westside territory three times and came away with two intercepted passes and one fumble.
"Our defense did a good job - normally when you hold a team under eight points in a high school game, you usually win," Lakeside coach Ed Koester said. "We didn't convert our opportunities offensively. Penalties and turnovers killed us."
Westside managed 228 yards of total offense, but 159 of that total came in the first half. The Panthers surrendered just three first downs in the second half.
While the Patriot offense had trouble moving the ball in the second half, Suarez knew it was up to the defense to pull the team through.
"We might be small but we have so much heart," Suarez said. "It's amazing how close we are, which really helps."
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