SHRUB OAK, N.Y. - The scene was simply spectacular when Lakeland’s football squad hosted sister school Walter Panas as the place was packed with the majority of the fans on both sides wearing pink T-shirts.
That was because it was Lakeland’s seventh annual “Tackles for a Cure” or “Pink Game,” which raises money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Hornet coach Mike Meadows, who is a 2005 Lakeland graduate, was pleased to see how his community came out Sept. 28.
“It was an awesome scene,” Meadows said. “I am proud of the community for coming out together for a good cause, raising money, and raising awareness to fight such a horrible disease. Something like this is very unique and very special to what we do here at Lakeland. I’m just proud to be from here, I’m proud to teach here and I’m proud to coach here. Hopefully next year we can give them something to cheer about a little bit more.”
That’s because Panas beat Lakeland for the second-straight season, this time 28-7.
Panas came out on fire in the first half, jumping out to a 21-0 halftime lead. It could’ve been even more if not for the play of Lakeland senior captain Armando Smith (5 tackles, 3 sacks) just before halftime.
A sack by Smith of Panas quarterback Brandon Hodge forced a second-and-17 from the Lakeland 19. On fourth-and-7 on the same possession, Smith flew by the Panther offensive line and jumped high in the air to bat down a Hodge pass to end Panas’ scoring threat.
“I was thinking that we were still in the game. We still had a chance to come back,” Smith said. “We just didn’t execute, we didn’t make enough plays. We had too many penalties.”
Lakeland did find some cohesion to start the third quarter when it drove down the field 55 yards. That drive ended when Hornet quarterback Mike Capozzi (10 rushes, 39 yards) connected with Dylan Semenza on a fourth and goal from Panas’ 8-yard line, with Jorge Duque’s extra point cutting the deficit to 21-7.
“We eliminated the mistakes on that drive,” Meadows said. “We have to learn to finish. That was a drive that was a good example of learning how to finish, but unfortunately we had other opportunities that we couldn’t take advantage of.”
One of those opportunities Lakeland didn’t take advantage of came with 9:37 remaining in the fourth quarter, when Panas punter Jacob Liebert rolled out on a punt before accidentally putting his knee on the ground.
That gave Lakeland the ball at the Panas 13-yard line but the Panther defense forced a turnover on downs, essentially sealing the game for the visitors.
While disappointed with the defeat, Smith cherished the opportunity to play in front of a big crowd against a rival for a great cause.
“It’s an experience you can only live once, you have to enjoy while it’s here,” Smith said. “It’s too bad we couldn’t have come out with a win but we played hard. You just have to give it up to the Panas players—they played very well.”
Lakeland’s Tommy Barnett played well on both sides of the ball, rushing for 90 yards on 14 carries while making nine tackles with teammate Ray Stretz registering seven tackles.
The Hornets (1-4) will host Byram Hills at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6, in their regular-season finale.