SHRUB OAK, N.Y. – Lakeland finished their regular season on Friday night by scoring 28 unanswered points against Walter Panas, rolling to a 42-14 victory behind four touchdowns from Matt Makar.
The Hornets finished the regular season 4-2, improving on last year’s 2-7 record.
It was the Hornets’ first win over their sister school since their 9-0 defeat of the Panthers in 2015. That was also the last time Lakeland finished a season with a winning record, going 5-3.
“To finally get a win against them, they beat us the last three years, so it feels good to get a win,” said Lakeland coach Mike Meadows.
The rivalry game was also Lakeland’s annual “Pink Game,” where the team raises money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
“It's senior night, so it's special for our seniors, a night they are always going to remember and on top of this the Pink Game,” Meadows said. “The Pink Game is so big in our community. We raised so much money for such a great cause and just to see the fans and the enthusiasm, everybody here tonight, it was awesome, it was awesome. I am proud to be a part of this community.”
The Hornets needed only two plays to strike first. Mike Castelli took the opening handoff for 40 yards. On the next play, Makar scored on a 15-yard run. Kian Ray then connected on the first of his 6 extra points, putting Lakeland up 7-0.
“If you start right out like that, it's going to be a heck of a game,” Makar said. “If you start like that, you are going to keep playing, everyone is going to follow you in your footsteps.”
Makar gave the Hornets a 14-0 lead on a 1-yard touchdown run with just five seconds left in the opening quarter, only to see the Panthers tie it on two 18-yard touchdown passes in the second quarter.
Lakeland regained the momentum before the first half ended, recovering a Panas fumble. On the next play after the turnover, Tyler Santucci (18-23, 196 yards) connected with Castelli (3 catches, 83 yards) on a 38-yard touchdown pass, which gave the Hornets a 21-14 halftime lead.
“That was big momentum,” Makar said. “Zero seconds left on the clock, Castelli walked into the end zone, you know, that's big. You come out, second half, you're fired up.”
Makar (8 catches, 74 yards, 8 rushes, 43 yards), behind the strong line of Brandon Gu, Mike Mulhern, Jason Green, Jorge Duque and Carl Lund, scored two more touchdowns on runs of 2 yards and 1 yard, giving Lakeland a 35-14 advantage in the third quarter.
Those touchdowns were set up by a block punt from John Giufridda (10 tackles) and an interception by Green (10 tackles), with Makar scoring immediately after those game-changing plays.
“It's huge, it's huge,” Meadows said. “When you can put the offense in good position, good field position, it's awesome. John [Giufridda] came off the edge, he laid out and he was able to block the punt and then Green, that was one of the most athletic plays I've seen. He tipped the ball to himself while he was laying on the ground and we got the ball at the 2-yard line. Making plays like that not only helps obviously with field position but it also helps with momentum of the game, and we were able to get those plays tonight.”
Danny Libretti (10 tackles) also stood out for the Hornets defensively.
Castelli finished the scoring with a 45-yard touchdown run in the final quarter.
Seniors Castelli, Duque (captain), Giufridda, Green (captain), Gu, Makar (captain), Ray, J'Adore O'Neal, Kyle Lobo, David Akoko, Jake DiFede, Albert Rizzotto, Patrick Hickey, Liam Dineen-Herzog and Landon Ruggieri (captain), all took a sweet senior lap, a Hornets tradition after the last regular-season game, shortly after the game ended.
“It's a rivalry,” said Makar. “This is a big game for us. They had nothing to lose but we did. So, we gave it our all. First half was a little shaky, but it's always good to come out strong at the end and then win as a senior. It's a big improvement.”
Lakeland will next play, as the No. 8 seed, when it hosts No. 9 Fox Lane, in the qualifying round of the Section 1 Class A Tournament at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18.