CAMBRIDGE SPRINGS, Pa. – With their school and community reeling from a horrific tragedy, the Lakeview Sailors gave them a reason to cheer.
Less than 24 hours after a car accident claimed the lives of three of their classmates, the Sailors’ football team took the field and beat Cambridge Springs, 28-22 in a battle of teams that both came in with perfect 6-0 records.
The game almost wasn’t played, and everyone would have understood if it wasn’t. But the players wanted to honor their classmates and decided to play during a 1 p.m. team meeting on Friday.
“We all felt heartbroken at that point,” said senior Mitchell Tingley during the Cole Orthodontic Associates postgame interview. “We were told we weren’t allowed to play at first. Our entire team, people behind us, everybody came up and we told them this wasn’t about football, this was about everyone else.”
See Tingley’s full interview:
Just nine seconds into the game, the Sailors gave fans a reason to cheer. After the opening kickoff went out of bounds, Lakeview got the ball at the 35. Their very first play, Leyton Zacherl connected with a streaking Danick Hinkson down the sideline for a 65-yard touchdown.
It was a lead the Sailors never relinquished.
“I was a little skeptical,” Hinkson said of the opening play. “I know it works on paper, but we came out here, I’m running down the field, no one’s near me, I look back and see Leyton Zacherl, eye contact, he puts it up, I couldn’t believe I caught it and it really set the tone early.”
See Hinkson’s full interview:
The Sailors went up 14-0 just four minutes into the game.
After forcing a Cambridge Springs punt, the Sailors got good field position at the Blue Devils’ 41. Two plays later Tingley broke free for the first of his three touchdowns, a 36-yarder. It was part of a 29-carry, 205-yard effort for Tingley.
The Blue Devils, like good teams do, responded. The proceeded to go on a 54-yard drive that chewed up over six minutes of game clock and was capped by a Preston Gorton 14-yard touchdown run on fourth down.
It was punch-counterpunch as Lakeview got the ball back and went on a 58-yard drive that chewed up another six minutes off the clock. Tingley put the finishing touches on that drive with a 14-yard touchdown run.
“It’s not about me, it’s about them,” said Lakeview coach Bill Hickman as his team continued to build upon its best start to a season in program history. “My heart is so open right now. Prior to this, we had a really great week of practice. We had a great walkthrough on Thursday, probably the best one of the year. These guys had a calm demeanor all week in practice. They’re confident in their abilities.”
Cambridge’s next drive was nearly identical to its previous, only this time it covered 80 yards. Brett Kania had a couple of long runs to ultimately set up Gorton again from 1-yard out to make it 21-14 with 1:54 to go in the first half.
The turning point of the game may have actually come early in the third quarter. Cambridge Springs got the ball and was driving inside the Lakeview 30 when it was ruled that Jordan Washington fumbled and Lakeview recovered. The Cambridge Springs sideline was adamant that Washington was down, but the officials ruled it a fumble.
The Sailors responded by going on a 74-yard drive that took close to six minutes off the clock, with Tingley scoring on a 14-yard run.
That was the last score the Sailors had, but it proved to be all that they needed.
A 47-yard pass from Brandon Hoover to Preston Gorton set the ball up at the 2-yard line, where Tristen Mazzadra was able to punch it in and Kania’s two-point conversion run made it 28-22 with 2:01 to go in the third quarter.
That proved to be the last score of the game, however, as Lakeview’s defense came up big in the fourth, including securing a critical stop on a 4th-and-1 from midfield with 3:45 to play.
Cambridge Springs only had one timeout left, and the Blue Devils were able to pick up a pair of first downs to run out the clock.
Cambridge Springs had won each of its first six games by at least 39 points each, while Lakeview’s closest test was a 20-12 win over Cochranton last week.
“This was the first game we go to play in the fourth quarter, which is something I knew was going to happen tonight,” said Cambridge Springs coach Nate Liberty. “We have to do better because we know we are going to see them again in the playoffs. I told the team at the end of the game that our goal of District 10 remains in place.”
For Lakeview, Hinkson finished with 102 yards receiving on three receptions and also had four carries for 25 yards, while Aiden Osborne had five carries for 25 yards. Tingley was also 3-of-5 through the air for 56 yards.
Kania led Cambridge Springs with 64 yards rushing on 15 carries, while Morgan Applebee was 3-of-6 through the air for 60 yards and Preston Gorton finished with 25 yards rushing and 52 receiving.
“I can’t say enough about Cambridge Springs,” Hickman said. “Their coaches, their players, they’ve been nothing but great to us. It was almost hard to get up really because the love was there. It was genuine. Nate and his crew, hats off to them. I appreciate them. I would have had no trouble canceling this football game if I felt my players’ heads weren’t into it. To me, they needed this, the town needed it, our community. That’s why we came here today. We came here for them.”