2009-10-07 / Sports

Back-to-Back champs?

Lakers and Ubly vie for second straight league titles
BY STEVE JIAS SPORTS EDITOR

Chris Rowe Chris Rowe PIGEON – The Green Machine is up and running toward what could be their second league title and playoff appearance in as many years. To get there, they will need to find a way to get through Friday night’s matchup against the Reese Rockets that could decide the Greater Thumb West champion.

After dropping three of their first four contests last season, Elkton-Pigeon Bay Port rallied to win their last five games to win the league title and see playoff action for the first time since 2002 when the Lakers went 12-1 overall, losing to Hopkins 30-14 in the state semifinals.

This year’s version of EPBP is only two points away from being a perfect 5-0 with their only defeat coming at the hands of Carrolton 27-26 in the season opener.

Reese comes into this weeks game with a 4-1 record overall with their only loss coming from Vassar.

The Rockets have gotten the better of the Lakers since 2000, defeating the Lakers seven times in the last nine meetings outscoring EPBP by almost a 2-1 ratio 245-128 and making the playoffs eight out of the last 10 years.

Luke Voelker Luke Voelker “I think it should be a great game. I’m glad it’s our place,” said coach George Gardy. “It is parents’ night and I’m sure it will be emotional.”

Reese will bring plenty of offense to Laker country. Gardy is well aware that the Rockets have been using a two quarterback system, but all that may change as Reese lost one of their two quarterbacks which leaves the Lakers wondering what to expect from Reese offensively. “Reese is an athletic team.” Gardy said. “They are going to be difficult for us to block. It’s going to be a challenge.”

“Reese brings a lot of experience from last season and they will do things that they’ve done in the past and I’m sure they’ll do a lot of things well,” said Gardy. “They’re a real good football team and they’re playing for a share of the league title so I’m sure they will bring their A-game.”

EPBP hopes to offset some of the Rocket firepower with their evolving defense. Gardy has seen a great deal of improvement in the Laker defense and credits Mark Manenti for the results. “Mark (Manenti) had done a great job getting the kids to do the right things,” Gardy said.

The Lakers will see the same personnel start in their respective positions for the third straight game according to Gardy. “That’s going to help.”

Another plus for the Lakers is the absence of the errors that plagued them earlier this season. “We’ve gotten away from making as many mental mistakes as we did in the beginning of the year that’s a real plus,” said Gardy.

Gardy has talked about improving the team’s depth since the beginning of the season and continues to do that. “We’ve got some key football players that have to do good things for us,” Gardy said. “We just need more players to do good things for us. And we’re getting to that point and hopefully it will continue this week.”

With all that is riding on Friday’s game, you might think that the team and coaching staff would feel the pressure, but according to Gardy, that isn’t the case. He and his players felt more of the pressure in front of a huge crowd of Laker alumni against Deckerville at the 50th homecoming. “That’s a pressure game. The rest of these games are fun,” said Gardy.

The Lakers have found different ways to win every week, and most of the time the names Voelker and Rowe enter the conversation. Gardy believes that “Luke (Voelker) and Chris (Rowe) will do the things they’re supposed to do.”

“They’ve been varsity players for three years. They know their responsibilities.”

While Voelker and Rowe play a large part in the team’s success, there are plenty of other reasons that EPBP is enjoying a successful season. “We’ve got a whole lot of kids on the offensive line and defensive line that have really taken some step ahead,” Gardy said.

Every week we should have someone step up and do something good for us and I’m hoping we’re going to be able to add some names to the list.”

Gardy has seen his team improve from week to week. This Friday’s tilt may prove to be the team’s biggest test this year. He will look to his seniors for experience, and the entire team to step up to take control in the battle for the league title. “I’m looking to see who that surprise kid is that steps up for us and does something great. We’ve had one every week do something really good, and we’re going to have to have one do that,” said Gardy.

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