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October 3, 2012Two of the top-ranked teams in our Ohio DI Rankings meet this week in our US Marines Backyard Battle matchup as Lakota East welcomes Sycamore in a huge GMC tilt.
Both teams have gone 5-1 through six weeks and there is a ton on the line when they clash on Friday night. The winner bolsters their post-season hopes while the loser could be facing an uphill battle.
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
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PLAYERS TO WATCH: Sycamore quarterback Greg Simpson will be sad to see the calendar turn. The junior accounted for 16 touchdowns (12 rushing, 4 passing) and ran for no less than 186 yards in any of the Aviators' four September tilts. Running back Markus James ran for 78 yards or more three times during the month. Receiver Caleb Colletts and tight end Mason Morgan are Simpson's primary targets downfield. Five of Collets' 13 receptions have gone for touchdowns. Sycamore likes to bring pressure. Linebackers Josh Hunter, Donnie Stewart and Tinashe Bere have combined for 8.5 sacks and each has recovered a fumble. Seniors Cory Smith, Dan Apke and Ryan Gamber have been a stabilizing influence for a talented group of underclassmen athletes.
The triple-option attack of Lakota East is headed up by seniors Eric Eichler, Will Mahone and Chamada Palmore. Mahone leads the squad with 612 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing. Palmore has exploded the past three weeks, averaging 120 yards on the ground. Junior offensive lineman Jarrett LaRubbio has picked up his first two offers from Pitt and Akron this past month. Seniors Jake Chestnut, Blake Bostick, Keith Brady, JT Turner and LJ Chappell anchor the front seven for the Thunderhawks. Classmate Rob Harpring leads the secondary.
TEAM TRENDS: Lakota East is in a position to capture their first playoff appearance. Sycamore is looking for their fifth overall trip to the postseason. The Aviators are 49-22 under head coach Scott Dattilo, who is in his sixth season. Rick Haynes is 12-14 in his third year at the helm for the Thunderhawks. Sycamore has allowed 89 points over the last two games after yielding just 24 points in their first four outings. The Aviators have only turned the ball over three times and are a +9 in the takeaway category. Lakota East is a +7 in turnover margin with only four miscues on the season.
SYCAMORE'S KEYS TO VICTORY: This is shaping up to be one of the best offenses in the history of the program. Their ability to force the tempo and pace of a game puts teams back on their heels. They will look to achieve that again in this affair. For the first time last week the Aviators' defense showed that they are vulnerable to the pass. Baiting Lakota East to throw the ball is a great story line in this affair. The Thunderhawks have only attempted four total passes over the past two weeks.
LAKOTA EAST'S KEYS TO VICTORY: Lakota East has plenty of motivations as they hope to avenge last year's 28-25 loss. Corralling Simpson will be priority number one for the Thunderhawks' defense. Getting him out of his comfort zone and into uncomfortable/unfamiliar situations and forcing him to make bad decisions will be a primary focus. No matter how big of a lead the offense can build, Sycamore will not stray from their game plan of running the ball. Not letting the guard down against a long pass could be the difference in this contest.
PREDICTION: SYCAMORE 34, LAKOTA EAST 28