The Lake Country Chiefs’ Red teams, from 5th through 8th grade, came to Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday to meet with the teams from Tosa East. A big win, a couple hard-fought losses, and a momentum-changing tie marked the day….
EIGHT GRADERS THUNDER TO EASY WIN
The Lake Country Chiefs’ 8th Grade Red team got the day started at 9 AM with a 38-6 thrashing of Tosa East that came about in the way a coach always likes to see—through complete control of the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
It was a somewhat disjointed first quarter, with each team turning it over twice, but the Chiefs set the tone up front right away. After Tosa East got some momentum with a fumble recovery on the game’s first possession, defensive end Connor Hanley immediately stuffed a play for a four-yard loss and Lake Country would get the ball back close to where they’d left off.
Zach Hastings then made the first big offensive play, coming from the left slot, sweeping around the right side, getting into space, delivering a wicked stiff-arm and reaching the nine-yard line. Hastings run set up the day’s first touchdown. The next three possessions ended in interceptions, but Lake Country’s Carter Bell had the last one. It resulted in a 30-yard run by T.J. Stewart to the doorstep of the end zone, and Stewart ultimately finished the drive with a touchdown.
The turnovers got cleaned up in the second quarter, and the Chiefs’ line dominance became more apparent. Offensive tackles Charlie Becker and Michael Reige repeatedly sealed off the edges and created space on the outside for Stewart, Hastings & Co. The interior was controlled by the trio of Zach Karrells, Ryan Kaiser and Sam Jungbluth. It resulted in another long run by Stewart, which in turn set up a score from Tyler Zimmerman. It was 20-0 before the second quarter was halfway done.
Tosa East couldn’t get anything going offensively against the defensive interior of Harry Warren, Joe Hassler and Tony Konen, so the Trojans dialed up some trickery. A halfback option pass resulted in a touchdown at the 1:52 mark of the second quarter. But that was still enough time for Stewart to take an inside handoff, get to the right sideline and take the ball 50 yards to the house. Tosa East tried the halfback option with a minute left, but the Chiefs weren’t fooled twice—the play was blown up.
The weather began to turn at halftime, as the promising sunny Saturday morning gave way to the dank chill that would settle on the area for the balance of the afternoon. There was no such change in the Chiefs’ fortunes though. Joey Meier would score a touchdown that extended the lead to 32-6 and Lake Country scored once more. Tosa East simply never generated a sustained offensive threat outside of the lone trick play.
It marks the second straight victory for head coach John Hanley’s kids, and they’ve seen progression each week—from tough loss to tough win to blowout victory. Now it’s about continuing to build on the rhythm they’ve established.
SEVENTH GRADE SHOWDOWN
The 7th Grade Red game against Tosa East was the only battle of 2-0 teams in the universe that is Lake Country Chiefs football, and while the Chiefs dropped a tough 16-6 game, they played a football game and an opponent worthy of the stakes.
Lake Country got the game off to a strong start. It started with great defense on the opening possession, as they superbly defended a pitch to the outside, stringing it all the way to the sidelines, then landing a hit that forced a fumble and a recovery.
The Chiefs then quickly swung a pass to Jacob Boray who got the sideline and down to the Tosa 20-yard line. On third and nine, an offensive line quintet led by Will Paulson and Raymond Ripplinger in the middle created a huge hole in the middle that resulted in the game’s first touchdown.
It stayed 6-0 into the second quarter. Caden Bence intercepted a fourth-down pass at the goal line to preserve the Chiefs’ lead. But when Tosa East’s own defense immediately held, it created a field position conundrum that would plague Lake Country.
The game began to be played almost exclusively on their side of the field, and though it took some time, Tosa East eventually scored, when Victor Ferrihaber, a bruising fullback, pounded his way into the end zone. And in a league where a converted kick results in two points, Tosa’s kicker blasted home an extra point that would have been good from 35 yards. The game went the locker room 8-6.
Lake Country got the opening kickoff, but when they were pinned deep, it set up another go-around of being on the wrong side of the field position battle. In a game where the offenses are in control, this can be overcome, but when you have two excellent teams, defense often holds sway and that was true on both sides of the ball here.
The Chiefs played good defense all day, with Bence making at least two brilliant open field tackles on the edge, plays done in textbook form. The kind of clean open field play made by Bence—head up, body squared and meeting the runner squarely—don’t make highlight reels, but they put ballcarriers down in a way that’s both efficient in football terms and secure in terms of player safety.
Tosa East was persistent and had several talented players in the backfield that kept the pressure on. Aaron Johnson-Moorer was a challenge on the outside, constantly pushing the edge. If the Chiefs’ became too conscious of the outside, then Tosa had a big, physical line and backs line Fernhaber and Henry Tyson that were tough to tackle inside. With the field position advantage, they eventually scored and again blasted the extra point into the parking lot.
The kids of head coach Mark Zeutzius never gave up, even on a day they were swimming upstream. Dane Vance took the ball and pounded up the middle to midfield in the fourth quarter to reverse field position. Joey Biwer then threw a beautiful downfield pass to Davis Zeutzius and got the Chiefs into the red zone, but the final drive stalled and the game ended 16-6.
Lake Country’s 7th Grade Red team can still feel good about how they competed. Against a team that will surely be among the league’s best all season, and despite battling field position and a kicking game that gave Tosa a big edge, the Chiefs were just a couple plays away on their final chance from matching Tosa East in touchdowns.
SIXTH GRADERS JUST MISS
The 6th Grade Red team competed hard, and made some great defensive plays, but two big offensive plays being called back and a key injury were too much to overcome in a close 7-0 loss.
Lake Country’s sixth-grade kids followed in the mold of the seventh-graders, with some terrific open-field tackles, including a couple by Cade Hanley and Jordan Bell, and several by Will Lauterbach, the linebacker who must have figured out some way to multiply himself, for the raw number of tackles he manages to get in on.
A second-quarter drive had promise, after Hanley took it on a keeper, peeled off to the right side and got into Tosa East territory, but the drive stalled. Tosa East started a drive of their own and faced a 4th-and-7 on the Chiefs’ 30-yard line. Quarterback Justin Steinike dropped back and found his tight end, Oliver Portzebowski, on a beautifully executed pass over the middle that ended up in the end zone for what would prove to be the game’s only score.
In the second half, the Lake Country offense began to apply more pressure on the edge, but just couldn’t quite get over the hump. Bell tore off a 50-yard run down the right sideline on the first play of the third quarter, but it was a called back on a penalty. On a later play Bell ran to the sideline and the tackle resulted in a sprained ankle. Down near the sidelines, Bell could be heard saying he wanted to get back in the game, but even though his speed represented one of the team’s best chances to win, the coaches put safety first and kept him icing the ankle.
A Tosa East drive early in the fourth quarter to try and put the game away was stopped when Lauterbach blitzed up the middle and blew up a key third-down play. With 5:43 to play, the Chiefs had it on their own 30-yard line. Hanley picked up one first down, and then broke loose on a run that picked up about thirty yards. This play was also called back.
Overcoming eighty yards of lost yardage and a key injury is a tough row to hoe in a game this close, and even though the Chiefs got as close as the Tosa 39-yard line with 1:45 to play, the game ended 7-0.
FIFTH GRADERS TURN THE TIDE
Some persistence from the players and good adjustments from the coaching staff helped turn the tide for the Chiefs’ fifth-graders, and a game that began in less-than-promising fashion ended up in a 7-7 tie.
Tosa got the opening kickoff, and in spite of a good defensive play from Alec Swinehart on third down, the Trojans converted a key fourth down play and took a 7-0 lead, on a drive that chewed up the game’s first five minutes.
By the second quarter, the Chiefs’ defense had made key adjustments though. “We changed our gap alignments,” head coach Tim Seidl said after the game. “We spread them out and started to contain everything inside better.” The coach further pointed out that beyond the Xs and Os, the kids simply started to come off the ball better and make plays.
We should note that this writer has seen two of the three games played the 5th Grade Red team, and in each case, there have been good tactical adjustments made that have turned momentum in the Chiefs’ favor after early events went against them.
Now it was time for the offense to make some plays and it fell to Max Bredeson to turn the tide late in the second quarter. He started on the defensive side, first making a tackle for a loss, then pressuring the quarterback on third-and-long, and forcing a punt with 1:42 left.
Now on offense, Bredeson took a swing pass, got in the clear, broke two tackles and made his way up to the sideline. Some last-gasp defensive pressure at the 10-yard line, forced a stumble, but Bredeson kept his feet, kept inbounds and scored. Joe Perri then ran in the conversion and the game was tied 7-7. Both defenses took over the second half and the game ended there. No team shows up on Saturday hoping to tie, but the ability of the Chiefs’ kids to fight back and their coaches to adjust quickly turned around a day that had started in less-than-promising fashion.