By Greg Shoemaker
LIBERTY TWP., Ohio – The setting couldn’t have been more ideal for the 2013 regular finale.
The weather was surprisingly pleasant for Nov. 1, the rivalry passionately heated on both sides and the Hawks Nest was packed with boisterous fans and bombing bands as Lakota West edged Lakota East, 34-27 on Friday.
Lakota East (5-5, 3-4) desperately needed a victory in front of its home faithful versus Lakota West (9-1, 7-0) to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. It was a tall order as the Thunderhawks, who trail in this series 9-6 had never beaten their rival on their home turf.
The Firebirds were out for revenge as the Thunderhawks took them down a year ago, eliminating Lakota West from the post-season. The Firebirds watched in agony as Lakota East celebrated, advancing to Week 11 for the first time in school history.
With all that motivation in place, Lakota West quarterback Malik Grove played a nearly perfect game. The senior was calm cool and collected going 12-for-13 for 154 yards including a perfect 9 of 9 for 91 yards in the first half.
Grove was like a maestro guiding his team play after play without a huddle. After halftime his second touchdown run of the night with just under seven minutes left in the contest gave the Firebirds a 14-point cushion and allow them to close out Lakota East.
Grove finished with 98 yards on the ground. His two rushing scores give him 16 in the last eight weeks with at least two in six of those tilts.
Mikel Horton did everything in his power to help classmate Grove and the cause. Horton ran for 138 yards and two touchdowns. It was his fifth straight game with more than 115 yards rushing and it pushed his season total to 1,075 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Lakota East moved the ball on offense but two untimely turnovers made a huge difference in the outcome. The Thunderhawks made a goal-line stand after Lakota West took the ball 79 yards down field on a tedious and long opening drive of the contest.
Lakota East would fumble just a few plays later as Emmanuel Tshabola recovered it for West and took it six yards for a touchdown.
A third-quarter interception enabled the Firebirds to build a cushion that Lakota East just couldn’t overcome in the end.
The Thunderhawks ran for 318 yards. David Chenault had 115 yards and two touchdowns rushing. Bobby Brown belted out a team high 120 yards on the ground with a TD receiving in the loss.
The victory gives Lakota West a share of the GMC title with Colerain, which also went 7-0 in league play. The two teams did not meet this season.
The Firebirds move on to play next Saturday night in the playoffs against an opponent to be announced on Sunday.
Kicker Justin Martin and Horton became the first two players in the history of this rivalry to play in it four years in a row.
Martin scored points in four tilts for Lakota West. Horton played in the games as a freshman and a sophomore at Lakota East, and this was the first time he had been on the winning team.
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
For once, the Loveland Tigers didn't make an amazing comeback. Their start was amazing enough.
Bayle Wolf’s third touchdown run with 1:10 left lifted the Falcons to a hard-fought 27-21 win over Youngstown Mooney.
A look at the 2013 Associated Press Divisions III All-Ohio high school football team, based on the recommendations of a state media panel.
The 2013 Associated Press Division II All-Ohio Team, as selected by a state-wide media panel.
A look at the top performers during the 2013 Ohio high school football season. The 2013 Associated Press Division I All-Ohio Team, as…
Glenville brings a slew of major-college recruits into the Division II championship Friday, while Loveland seems to have destiny on its side.
Moeller and Clinton-Massie are going back to try to repeat their 2012 titles while Loveland takes the stage for the first time.
The Crusaders shut out Hilliard Davidson on only 61 yards in the second half to return to the Division I state championship game.
Another amazing comeback lifted Loveland over Zanesville and sent the Tigers to the state championship game.
Trailing by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the Falcons showed the heart and perseverance of defending champions.