Eagles ‘show great character’ in history-making 1st victory

Posted Monday, Sep. 09, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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For more than a year, players and fans at Lake Ridge have been waiting for this feeling. And it probably couldn’t have come in more dramatic fashion. The Eagles finally notched the school’s first-ever football victory last Friday in a remarkable 77-75, triple-overtime contest at Burleson Centennial.

Twice in the overtime periods Centennial scored first and Lake Ridge found and answer. In the third overtime, Duke Carter scored on a 17-yard run to tie the game, then found the end zone on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt to seal the historic win.

“It was just crazy,” sophomore quarterback Jett Duffy said. “It just felt right. I just looked at the crowd and looked at the team and saw how happy they were.”

Centennial beat Lake Ridge 42-0 last year as part of the Eagles’ 0-10 inaugural season, and many expect Centennial to be a playoff team from District 8-4A this year.

“I think it was a great confidence builder for us,” head coach Kirk Thor said. “We have to take one game at a time, but it was great for our kids to experience success. One of the things from a bigger picture is that our kids showed great character. We were down 17 points in the middle of the third quarter and had to come back and compete and tie the game up. Then, the last drive we held Centennial to just a field goal to make sure it stayed a tied game and we continued to battle through the overtimes. I was proud of the character of the kids.”

The Eagles’ offense racked up almost 700 yards of total offense, including 341 yards passing and three touchdown passes from Duffy in his varsity debut. He added 132 yards and three scores on the ground.

“I think he showed a lot of poise,” Thor said. “To be able to play as a sophomore right off the bat for us, I think he showed great poise. There are some things we need to continue to work on and grow, but I think he made plays when he had to. He stayed calm in a big game. It gave some confidence to entire offense as well.”

The success Lake Ridge had early – including two touchdown drives in the first quarter – allowed Duffy to settle into his first Friday night experience.

“I wasn’t really nervous. I just knew that I had to go in there and do what I needed to do in order to earn my team’s respect – so they would follow me,” Duffy said. “I believe those first couple of touchdowns allowed the team to relax and just to play our game.”

The Eagles’ game Duffy alluded to was its fast-paced offense, designed to minimize physical mismatches Lake Ridge has against most other teams. Thor feels his team will be younger, smaller and less experienced than many it faces, so the game plan was to speed things up and make big plays – and this time it worked.

“It was big-play game,” Thor said. “Going into it, we felt like we were physically outmatched size-wise. They were much bigger and stronger than us, so we felt like that our equalizer would have been to play fast-break football. We felt like if we could play as fast as possible that we might have a chance to be in better condition, so that’s what we did. I think that’s why there was so many explosive plays.”

Hidden in the stats and box score is the performance of the Eagles’ offensive line, which was key to many of those big plays.

“The offensive line did a tremendous job,” Thor said. “We had some good stats from our skill kids, but I think the offensive line was the foundation for what we did. They blocked well; they gave us great protection. They were outmatched physically as well. They were sometimes giving up 50 to 60 pounds per player, but they just battled hard.”

Duffy also feels the line was key to victory.

“It was mainly the line,” he said. “The line gave me heaven back there. Every time I went to the sidelines, I thanked them. I had to give them doughnuts the next morning. It was really up to them. Without the line blocking the way they did, basically we wouldn’t have won that game.”

One of those linemen, left guard Dalton Estrada, gives credit to the coaching staff for having them prepared to execute, both physically and mentally.

“We’ve got a really smart coaching staff that know what they’re doing, so we knew that if we were to execute like we’ve been taught and pushed through this entire journey, that good things would happen.

“On the sidelines, coaches were telling us that nobody in the stands were expecting us to do as well as we were doing. But on the field our coaches just kept telling us to do our assignments; don’t worry about the bigger things yet – worry about the little things like our steps and worry about getting there and getting set and the rest will fall into place. Whenever we were losing, we were worried about the bigger picture and weren’t focused on the little things. Later in the game, we showed that little things turn into big things.”

So the Eagles are 1-0 for the first time ever, and for the first time they’ll have to see how they deal with success.

“It was an awesome feeling, but we’re focused on not letting it get to our head,” Estrada said. “Our goal was to win one game. What we’re worried about now is not becoming relaxed or let off the gas.”

Duffy realizes that it might be tough to put the big win in the rear-view mirror, especially given all the talk it’s likely to stir in the hallways this week, but doesn’t think it will affect their preparations for this week’s opponent – Granbury.

“I don’t believe it will be hard to refocus, but it’s just that our minds our blown. But we know that we have to go get ready for the upcoming week.”

Thor realizes the significance of the victory, but figures it will be the offseason before he can really reflect on it in depth.

“It was exciting,” he said. “It was a relief for the kids that we finally had a win for the history of the school. It was good for our community. The first thing that went through my mind was that I was really proud of our kids. I was happy for them because they’ve worked hard. When you’re starting a program and you go through an 0-10 season and you’re trying to start a culture – I was just really proud for our kids and felt that they deserve a chance to have some fun and to enjoy a win.

“I told the kids to enjoy it over the weekend, but come Monday we have to go back to work,” he added. “After the season we’ll have time to really enjoy this victory and talk about it at length. Right now we’ve only got about a day or two and we’ve got to move on. I think when we look back in history it will be fun for us to talk about.”

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