(Statistical Information Courtesy of Professor Briggs' archives)
LAKEVIEW SAILORS 2020 FOOTBALL SEASON PREVIEW
Head Coach: Bill Hickman, 3rd year (2-17)
Last Year: 1-9 overall
After earning only three wins over the previous four seasons, one might think that the interest level in -- and optimism about -- Lakeview football would be very low. As the 2020 season approaches, it is clear that anyone with that line of thinking would be incorrect.
Third-year head coach Bill Hickman and his staff welcomed approximately 45 players to preseason camp as the Sailors continue their trek back to prominence in Class 2A. Among that group are several multi-year starters who aim to take the lessons learned over the last two seasons and apply them this season.
"We have kids who have grown up," Hickman said. "They have bought into the systems that we're using and to the work ethic that is needed. I wanted these kids to be mentally tough. Now, if they get knocked down, they know to get back up. We're going to punch back.
While the win total over the last two seasons may not reflect it, plenty of progress has been made with the program, according to Hickman. Statistically, Lakeview improved considerably in every major offensive and defensive category from 2018 to 2019.
"In the second year, it might not have shown in the wins and losses, but we competed. We competed a lot harder than we did in Year One," Hickman said.
Lakeview's youth and junior high programs are now in lockstep with the varsity program, in terms of offensive and defensive systems. "Every program is doing the exact same thing that we do at the varsity level," Hickman pointed out. "Through my experiences, that's how you build and sustain football programs."
The 2020 Sailors have plenty of depth and experience on the offensive lines, led by senior right tackle Isaac DeVault. "He's our anchor," Hickman said. "He really has the ability to be All-Region this season."
Senior Damon Kerr will step in at right guard. Newcomer Kyle McFadden, a sophomore transfer, has the inside track to start at center. Junior Sebastian Hensch returns at left guard while senior Christian Barber will challenge for time on the interior. Several players are battling for the left tackle post.
"We have depth on the line, which will pay off when we play tight games," Hickman said. "I've told them from Day One that the key (to the offense) is the line this year. We have a lot of skill kids and a lot of speed, but the line drives the train."
At quarterback, junior Gavin Murdock returns for his second season as the full-time starter. He threw for 408 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 171 yards and a team-leading five touchdowns. "He's smart and he's fundamentally sound," Hickman praised. "He's a really fast kid and I think this is his year to lead this football team. He's leading by example and he knows the offense inside and out."
Seniors Kiefer Guthrie and Ryan O'Polka are expected to both see time at running back. O'Polka finished second on the team in rushing last year with 193 yards. Hickman describes the hard-charging 185-pound Guthrie as similar in style to Domanic Leonard, Lakeview's rushing leader last year. Junior Calogano Wilkins is also in the backfield mix.
Lakeview also welcomes back its top two receivers from last year in seniors Lane Barber and Kendall Crocker. Barber caught 18 passes last year and Crocker caught 11 balls. A pair of basketball players, 6-5 senior Hunter Miller and 6-4 junior Lane Smith, aim to break into the lineup at wide receiver.
The Sailors will use multiple receivers in their spread attack. Hickman also noted that the Sailors will use two- and three-back formations at times on offense.
Defensively, Lakeview will use a 3-5 scheme. "It's been working out well for us," Hickman said. "We have five really good linebackers."
DeVault earned All-Region at linebacker last year and will call the defensive signals at middle linebacker. Wilkins and Lane Barber are back at the other inside spots while Christian Barber and Guthrie are the projected starters at outside linebacker. Hickman cited their respective strength and speed as being crucial to the outside linebacker positions.
Junior Mason Bevan returns at defensive end while Kerr and McFadden are projected to hold the other two starting positions.
Murdock returns at free safety and Crocker is back as a starter at cornerback. O'Polka and freshman Mitchell Tingley are battling for the other cornerback position.
District 10's realignment due to COVID-19 resulted in Lakeview being placed into a six-team conference with Cambridge Springs, Cochranton, Maplewood, Northwestern and Saegertown. The Sailors have played Northwestern in the regular season in each of the last two seasons. Lakeview played Cambridge Springs, Cochranton, Maplewood and Saegertown regularly as members of the French Creek Valley Conference in the 1980s, 1990s and into the 2000s.
"Everything looks good. We had a great camp with no injuries," Hickman said. "But we have to do it between the lines. We've been training nearly a year for this."