Lake Taylor RB Malik Newton fights through Phoebus tacklers (Photo: Joe Barnes/recruit757)
Do the Cyclones have want it take to halt Lake Taylor’s title aspirations?
by Andy Hilton, recruit757
Eastern View (13-0) at Lake Taylor (12-1) 1:30 p.m. Saturday
Here’s a familiar story.
Lake Taylor’s riverboat gambler defense faces a highly touted offense.
For the Titans, it’s like looking over the edge of a cliff and not being afraid to jump. After all, in 13 outings this year the Titans have won 12 and won handily in most of those contests.
Look at the hit list of teams that the Titans have stared down and knocked out.
Against Region 6C Champion Freedom-Woodbridge (12-1), the Titans got in to a 42-28 shoot out and dealt the Eagles their only loss. Against Region 5A Champion Maury (12-1), the Titans again won a shoot out, this time by a score of 49-35. When Lake Taylor met Region 3A Champion Phoebus, they got a gut check and needed to drive the length of the field in the final minutes of the game in order to salvage a 21-17 win on the Phantoms’ home turf.
Then last week, against undefeated Lafayette, the Titans’ shut down an offense that had been scoring 47 points a game. Lake Taylor won 35-14.
The tests against Freedom, Maury and Phoebus were played in September. The Titans have only gotten better since then.
In four November games, all against playoff teams and with three of those games coming in the postseason, Lake Taylor outscored their opponents by an average of 46 to 9.
Eastern View comes into the game with an impressive 13-0 record, but without the resume of regular season wins that Lake Taylor can claim. The Cyclones are indeed playoff tested.
Last year’s Class 4 State Champion Louisa County fell at home by a 19-14 score two weeks ago. It took a miraculous play in the final seconds for the Cyclones to pull out the win. Last weekend, Eastern View hit the road again, (at neutral Huguenot High School) this time beating 2016 state runner-up Dinwiddie by a score of 45-35.
So in recent weeks, Eastern View has won a shoot out and a defensive battle against tested opponents.
WHEN EASTERN VIEW HAS THE BALL:
The Cyclones run a spread offense and you can look to quarterback Matt Lowry as the gunslinger who commands the offense. In the regular season, Eastern View scored an average of 52 points a game and were never threatened.
Lowry was selected as the Battlefield District Offensive Player of the Year and his stats bear out the merit of that honor. Through 13 games, Lowry is 76 for 116 passing with 1,172 yards and 16 TDs, against only four interceptions. On the ground, Lowery has rushed for 1,370 yards and 27 TDs. Running back Trey Holmes will be another key for the Cyclones. When Lowry struggled against Louisa, it was Holmes that took over the offense. Holmes rushed for 1,332 yards and 17 touchdowns in the regular season, and he has continued to anchor the offense in the postseason.
Eastern View has been called “smash mouth” by their local media, but they haven’t seen a defense like Lake Taylor. As Lafayette dominated until they faced the Titans, Eastern View may be subject to the same fate. Lake Taylor will put eight or nine players in the box, leave their corners on an island and dare Lowry to get a pass off before he’s sacked. Against King’s Fork, Lake Taylor had seven first half sacks, burying the Bulldog quarterback in his own backfield.
Lowry will have to distribute the ball quickly. If the Cyclones are to run the ball successfully, their five man offensive line will have to find a way to block eight or nine defenders who are intent on tossing any ball carrier for a loss.
WHEN LAKE TAYLOR HAS THE BALL:
While the Titans have a lot of weapons, the keys for them have been quarterback Jeff Foster and running back Malik Newton. Both are Buffalo Wild Wings Player of the Week award winners, Foster the most recent after he had 7 carries for 113 yards and two touchdowns, plus 6 for 13 for 149 yards passing and two touchdowns in his team’s 35-14 regional final win over Lafayette. On the season, Foster is 66 of 131 passing for 1,586 yards, 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions while rushing for 828 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Newton is one of three tailbacks that takes the heat off of Foster and the passing game. Bubba Thomas and Dominique McNair get their touches, but the sophomore Newton is the workhorse. Newton only had had 15 carries for 83 yards in his team’s win over Lafayette, but on the regular season, Newton had 1,402 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns in ten games.
THE KEYS TO THE GAME:
Lake Taylor does like to stretch the field in the passing game, and their team speed produces a big question mark for Eastern View. Can the Cyclone secondary keep up with Lake Taylor?
The Lake Taylor veer may present yet another issue. The Cyclones may be smash mouth, but if they can’t execute assignment football and can’t catch Lake Taylor’s athletes once they’re in open space, the Titans will have a field day.
This one could be over quickly. Against I.C. Norcom, the Titans couldn’t get the passing game going and the Greyhounds keyed on the run. As long as Lake Taylor avoids being one-dimensional on offense, they should be able to dispatch Eastern View.
– Andy Hilton