Football: Lake City wins second consecutive HVL Gold titleLAKE CITY - A second consecutive outright Hiawatha Valley League Gold Division title for Lake City was almost a formality Wednesday, and the Tigers acted like it.
By: Chris Harrell, The Republican Eagle
LAKE CITY - A second consecutive outright Hiawatha Valley League Gold Division title for Lake City was almost a formality Wednesday, and the Tigers acted like it.
Each victory is just another stepping stone to larger goals as Lake City yearns for more from this season, just one year removed from a 21-game losing streak.
“We want to bring home something a whole lot more special than a conference championship,” Lake City senior quarterback Ben Schramski said. “We want to make a run. We don’t want to slow down at all.”
The Tigers maintained their hot streak, dismantling a depleted Zumbrota-Mazeppa team Wednesday night for their seventh straight win as the starting unit was not forced to punt in a 57-13 victory.
Seventh-ranked (3A) Lake City also held the Cougars (4-4, 4-2 HVL Gold) to minus-8 yards rushing and 17 total yards before halftime.
“The nice thing is our defense the last four weeks has just played better and better every week,” Tigers head coach Trevor Narum said. “We’ve become very hard to run on. I think we’ve allowed less than 50 rushing yards a game in the last four games and that’s huge especially this time of year when the weather gets a little bit colder and teams have to rely on the run a little bit more.”
One constant for the Tigers (7-1, 6-0 HVL Golf) the entire season has been their big-play ability. Again Wednesday, Lake City had four scoring plays of 35 yards or more.
“That kind of started last year,” Narum said. “We’re just fortunate to have a whole bunch of playmakers at different positions. It’s just a whole bunch of weapons so we make sure that we try to use them all.”
Junior Elliot Cox is the quintessential big-play threat for the Tigers as he finished the regular season with an average of 10.56 yards-per-carry and 16 touchdowns. Against Z-M, Cox ran for 72 yards on eight carries with two touchdowns, a 37-yard scamper in the second quarter to put Lake City up 43-0 just before halftime and another 6-yard touchdown run at 8 minutes, 52 second of the third quarter.
Schramski finished 5-for-8 passing for 165 yards and two touchdowns, one each to seniors Jake Griebenow and Coleman Sweeney. Griebenow scored from 35 yards out in the first quarter, and Sweeney had two catches for 102 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown catch with 6:48 left in the second quarter.
“We knew what they were going to do, we were there to make plays on all three of the long passes, it just wasn’t our night to make the plays when it happened,” Z-M head coach Willie Rauen said, “and you can’t do that against a really good team like them.”
The Tigers led 15-0 at the end of the first quarter but tallied four touchdowns, two by junior Will Balow in the second quarter and another on a 40-yard interception return by junior Reid Lundell. Balow led Lake City with 12 carries for 83 yards.
Senior Brandyn Oliver put the Tigers up 3-0 with a 24-yard field goal on Lake City’s first drive of the game, and that was the last time the Tigers faced a fourth down in the opening half.
In the second half, the Cougars finally got their offense going against Lake City’s second unit, scoring on a 35-yard touchdown pass from junior Kurt Gadient to junior Jacob Ugland at 4:47 of the third quarter. Z-M senior Cody Krueger added the Cougars’ second touchdown from eight yards away with 1:35 remaining in the third quarter to make it a 50-13 deficit.
Sophomore Easton Cox tallied the Tigers’ final score on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Lake City is looking to make a statement and get more respect after winning by an average margin of 29.8 points this season. The Tigers weren’t ranked until the fifth week of the season.
“We’ll always have a chip on our shoulders,” Schramski said. “Little Lake City doesn’t ever get any recognition. We want to put Lake City back on the map.”
The first game of Section 1AAA playoffs will take place Tuesday. Zumbrota-Mazeppa is expected to play on the road, and the Tigers are expected to play in Lake City.