By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
A strong breeze blew into the Big Reds of West Middlesex Friday night. Actually, that’s an understatement — it was more like a hurricane or tornado.
“ .. A force of nature,” Lakeview High head football coach Dan York said.
Sam Breese bullied the Big Reds at the line of scrimmage all evening, leading Lakeview to a 19-2 Region 1-A championship-clinching win.
“Sam’s a force of nature. You just don’t hold Sam back. When Sam wants to do somethin’, Sam’s gonna do it,” York said regarding his yeoman defensive lineman.
“I get my speed from my dad, and I get my size from my mom,” the 6-foot-1, 280-yard Breese related regarding his parents, Sam and Candace.
“Thank God he’s graduating after this year,” admiring Middlesex mentor Ed Roberson remarked in praise of Breese. “Tremendous football player. Not only is he athletic and strong, he’s very quick, and football wise. He’s just a great football player all around.”
Breese and Lakeview linemates Hunter Armstrong, Jarrett Troy, George Hooker, Marcus Bowser and Austin Hostetler harrassed West Middlesex signal-caller Trey Staunch from the outset.
West Middlesex (4-2, 5-4) manufactured only 153 total yards on 56 snaps (2.7 yards/play). Staunch was stymied, completing just 13 of 30 pass attempts for 104 yards.
“Our defense showed up and played well the whole night, even though half the game was played on our side of the field,” York assessed. “We just kept ’em out of the end zone.”
Breese bested the 285-pound bracket to climb the PIAA Class AA wrestling pedestal last March.
“Wrestling, you have to have really good hips, and over time I came into good hips. It helps with your leverage and helps my quickness and my feet. It’s just a great combination,” the behemoth Breese explained. “It helps me get low on tackles.
“I hurt my ankle in the first quarter, and Hunter Armstrong really stepped up,” Breese related. “I don’t know how many tackles-for-loss he had — I think he had, like, four or five. But that really helped us when I was recuperating, getting my ankle tapped.
“Then when he went down to injury — hopefully, he gets better — but that just opened up the whole line for me, and I took advantage of it,” added Breese, who twice sacked Staunch on Middlesex’s final series.
Offensively, Lakeview (5-1, 8-1) was led by Zach VanDusen. Spelling injured starting signal-caller Zach Bigley, VanDusen did a little bit of everything.
On the Sailors’ 2nd series, VanDusen optioned left, then sprinted 91 yards for the game’s initial score.
Late in the 2nd stanza VanDusen managed an 11-play, 74-yard, 6èminute Sailors’ scoring drive. On 4th-and-goal from the 5-yard line line following York’s timeout, VanDusen bootlegged right, then found Marquis Spence at the corner of the end zone as Lakeview extended its lead to 12-0.
That TD — his lone completion — gave VanDusen the distinction of having run for, caught and thrown for touchdowns this season.
“They were taking our power game away from us and our option game away from the other side, so they scouted us well,” York said in praise of Middlesex. “They’re a good football team; that’s why they were playing for the Region 1 championship
“We were having a hard time moving the ball, especially when we got inside the five-yard line,” York admitted. “Old Zacky VanDusen rolled out and — is that the only one he completed?” a chuckling York asked, adding, “that’s what we want.”
“He did an amazing job, coming in here and leading the team like he did. I’m so proud of him,” Breese said, praising VanDusen.
A center snap sailed over Sailors’ punter VanDusen’s head out of the end zone with 3:26 remaining for the Big Reds’ lone score, drawing Middlesex within 12-2. However the Sailors stopped Staunch & Co., coercing a punt.
In the 4th frame Blake Reddick ruefully reminded the Big Reds it was Lakeview’s night.
Reddick intercepted Staunch’s 2nd-and-6 pass from Lakeview’s 48 as the latter fled the pursuing Breese. On the ensuing Sailors’ play Reddick roared 52 yards for the game’s final score, his 23rd TD of the season.
Reddick rushed for a game-high 97 yards, increasing his season total to 1,953. Unofficially, he could become the first running back in District 10 annals, regardless of classification, to surpass the 2,000-yard rushing plateau in back-to-back seasons.
The grid championship was the first for Lakeview in a generation.
“What we saw (Friday)night was a Lakeview team that’s very well coached, and they just flat-out won it,” Roberson praised. “Congratulations to them, hat’s off to them.
“We just couldn’t capitalize, and that’s sort’ve been the theme of our struggles the past couple weeks — turnovers and just sort of stalling in the ‘red zone,’” Roberson continued. “We’ve gotta get that fixed.
“But, hopefully, we’ll see these guys (Lakeview) in a couple weeks,” Roberson reflected. “I told the (Big Reds) the story of how we played Mercer two years ago. They gave it to us in the regular season, but we came out and we beat ’em in the playoffs. So we’ll go back to the drawing board and work on getting better.”
“It’s brutal, it’s brutal! Anybody that can win Region 1 or win District 10 ... has a shot to go to states,” York said. “This region is so tough! West Middlesex, Sharpsville, Farrell, Conneaut — you just don’t get tougher than that, so you’re battle-tested by the time you get to the playoffs.”
Last year, in addition to Breese’s grappling greatness, the Sailors’ basketball squad enjoyed a stellar season, to which VanDusen and H-back/linebacker Brandon Rice were prime contributors. The ripple-effect of that Sailors’ success carried over to this football season.
“That was just me, myself,” Breese said regarding his PIAA mat crown. “I can’t control any of my other team members. We have to give a hundred percent every game.
“I feel like I’ve molded them into something they’d want to remember,” Breese continued. “Everyone wants to be remembered, everyone wants to be great. They saw that, they watched that. We have great school support from everybody, and the (2013 Sailors’ football team) wants to be a part of that.”
LAKEVIEW 6 6 0 7 19
MIDDLESEX 0 0 2 0 2
L — VanDusen 91 run (kick failed)
L — Spence, 5 pass from VanDusen (run failed)
WM — team safety
L — Reddick, 52 run (VanDusen kick)
8 First downs 9
257 Rushing yards 49
5 Passing yards 104
3-1-0 Att-comp-int 30-13-1
262 Total yards 153
4-40 Fumbles-lost 1-1
4-40 Penalties-yards lost 2-13
Rushing: LAKEVIEW — Reddick 20-97, Spence 9-80, VanDusen 6-80, A.Rice 1-0; WEST MIDDLESEX — Lucich 14-64, Patten 1-2, Trippy 1-(-5), Tyillian 4-(-6), Staunch 6-(-6).
Passing: LAKEVIEW — VanDusen 3-1-0, 5; WEST MIDDLESEX — Staunch 30-13-1, 104.
Receiving: LAKEVIEW — Spence 1-5; WEST MIDDLESEX — Lucich 4-43, Tyillian 3-42, Fair 3-13, Trippy 1-7, Patten 1-5, Mulkerin 1-(-6).