By: Daniel Simmons
Photos courtesy of Tiger Snaps
After a tough loss to Bunkie in Week 5, the Winnfield Tigers headed into their first district game of the season against the Lakeview Gators with a 1-4 record. Defeating the Gators did not project to be an easy task. During the week the Tigers had to prepare for Lakeview’s unconventional style of play while also dealing with the many distractions brought along by the homecoming festivities. But the Tigers were still able to put it all together Friday night, defeating the Gators by a score of 30-14.
The early moments of the game were not kind to the Tigers at all. They opened the game with the ball, going 3 and out and punting it away to Lakeview. The Gators’ first offensive drive was a long, slow, clock-eating drive that wore down the Tiger defense. On this drive, Tiger defensive lineman Brayden Chandler was injured, and it appeared to be a very significant injury. The injury was later confirmed to be a dislocated hip. The game was stopped for roughly 25 minutes while Chandler was receiving medical attention and being loaded into an ambulance that came onto the field. Play resumed once the ambulance left the field, and the Gators ran for a touchdown on the first play back. The two-point conversion was good, giving the Gators an early 8-0 advantage. The Tigers were prepared for an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, but the Gators executed the onside kick perfectly, as the ball bounced off a Tiger and Lakeview recovered, putting their ball-control offense right back on the field just as soon as they came off of the field.
At this point in the game, things were looking bleak for the Tigers. They hadn’t moved the ball at all on offense, the defense hadn’t stopped the Gator offense, and the energy from their sideline and home crowd had vanished after the injury. Lakeview looked positioned for another long drive that would at minimum tire out the defense even further, and might would add another touchdown to take a two-score lead. But the Tiger defense stepped up and made a play that proved to be the turning point in the game. The Gators botched a handoff, fumbling on the exchange between quarterback and running back. The Tigers recovered the fumble, giving their offense a chance for the first time in what felt like forever. The offense made the most of the opportunity, tying the score at 8 with a touchdown run by Jaylon Jackson and two-point conversion by Malachi Williams. The defense stepped up again on the ensuing offensive possession by the Gators, forcing a turnover on downs in Lakeview territory. All of a sudden, the excitement had returned to the Tiger faithful. Quarterback Damascus Lewis moved the Tigers down the field in multiple ways, running it himself as well as throwing passes to Breylan Starks and Jaylon Jackson. Jeremy Mamon bulldozed in from 2 yards out for a touchdown, then did the exact same thing on the two-point conversion that followed, making the score 16-8 in favor of Winnfield.
Winnfield’s offense was again able to start out with excellent field position on their next drive, as Lakeview turned it over on downs in their own territory again. The Tigers scored another touchdown on a beautiful downfield pass by Damascus Lewis to Ryan Davis. Lewis set his feet and threw a rainbow of a ball deep down the far sideline to Davis, who caught the ball in stride and ran the rest of the way for the touchdown. Jake Jones caught the two-point pass, giving the Tigers a 24-8 lead going into halftime. Lakeview started with the ball in the second half and scored a touchdown on an impressive drive that burned off 8 minutes of game clock. But the Tiger defense stepped up again, stopping Lakeview on the two-point run to keep the Tiger lead a two-score lead. The Gators would not score again for the rest of the night, and the Tigers would add another touchdown on a run by Lewis, arriving at the final score of 30-14.
The Tigers will play their first away game in over a month this week, as they will head west to Many to take on the Many Tigers, last year’s Division III Non-Select state champions. This year’s Many team does not feature star safety/quarterback/punt returner Tackett Curtis, as he has moved on to college ball at USC, but Many is still a very stout team that will give the Tigers a difficult game. Many is 3-2 on the season, most recently defeating Mansfield 42-13.