It really wasn’t a seismic event; it just felt like one.
It happened at 10:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30, when the Indian Lake Lakers put an exclamation point on what has turned out to be an extraordinary football season with a 48-32 win over host and bitter rival Benjamin Logan. The final whistle blew exactly three hours following the opening kick-off, the sound of which set off a riotous celebration in the visitors’ bleachers, which had been SRO from start to finish, the frenzy conjuring up a few whitecaps on Indian Lake near Turkeyfoot Point, some dozen miles to the northwest. To be sure, fans of the Red, Black, and White had plenty to celebrate.
Simply put, the Lakers’ victory on the gridiron was its most momentous in 55 years of competition. By beating the Raiders, the Lakers improved to 8-2 on the season and also hit a trifecta: They won the outright CBC Mad River Division title by going a perfect 5-0 in league play, grabbed an invitation to the OHSAA playoffs for the first time in school history, and earned the right to host that same playoff game against Ottawa-Glandorf Saturday, Nov. 7, in Lewistown.
Not a bad night to be a Laker fan.
The Lakers scored on their first six possessions against the Raiders (6-4 overall, 4-1 MRD) with three touchdown passes from Alex Jacobs, two field goals from Connor Davis, and a one-yard TD run by Cole Merritt, riding a 20-point lead into the locker room. Benjamin Logan tried its best to deflate the Indian Lake balloon, racking up 402 passing yards on the normally very miserly Laker defense, but mostly it was too little, too late as the Lakers allowed the Raiders a total of two rushing yards and forced four turnovers, the last coming via an interception by Jacobs as time was winding down in the fourth.
Indian Lake was all about setting and hitting goals this season. Head coach Dave Coburn, who’s been at the helm at Indian Lake for 19 years, said prior to the season the Lakers always have two games circled on the schedule, those against Logan County neighbors Bellefontaine and Ben Logan. A third circle was added this season to include Urbana, which had beaten the Lakers five straight times. Other goals covered bringing home the MRD hardware and making it to the playoffs. Five boxes, five check marks. Getting a home game in the tourney was extra gravy on the taters.
“We killed three birds with one stone,” Coburn said of the victory over Ben Logan. “A league championship, beating the Raiders, getting into the playoffs? Hard to beat that.”
Indeed it is. But the Lakers have precious little time to relax, because staying in the playoffs, Coburn admitted, is much more difficult than getting into them in the first place.
“Everybody is good at this point,” Coburn said of the 31 percent of Ohio high school football teams that qualified to play in Week 11. “There are no pushovers.”
Certainly not Ottawa-Glandorf. The Titans play in the murderous Western Buckeye League, which placed two other teams – Celina and Wapakoneta – in the tourney this year. The WBL just missed placing a fourth team in the playoffs when Lima Bath was edged out in a computer point slugfest.
O-G is an old hand at this playoff business, having made 11 prior appearances in the tourney, including seven straight from 2005-12 and a winning regional title in 2009. Going in to Week 10, the Titans averaged over 26 points- and 200 passing yards-per-game with an attack that Coburn has three Titan game tapes and one week to decipher. Not that he’s complaining.
“We were expecting to get in (with the win at Ben Logan)”, Coburn said. “But a home game? The chips had to fall just right. That’s big.”
Tom Stephens is a regular contributor to this newspaper.