Observations from the 48-38 Dreadnaught win over Lake Nona

Lakeland’s back was against the wall last night as the Lions from Lake Nona proved they were much better than expected and were focused on pulling the upset. However, the 10-0 Lakeland Dreadnaugts slowly fought back from being down 20-7 at one point to taking the lead 34-32 and eventually winning the 7A round 1 game 48-38. Here go some observations from last night. Lakeland will travel to Osceola next Friday.

Aaron Johnson, Lakeland
Aaron Johnson, Lakeland

AARON JOHNSON: Lakeland senior QB Aaron Johnson played like a CHAMP. Let me say that again…”He played like a freaking champ!” As the offense stumbled early, Johnson stayed collected and poised as he and Bill Castle put together drive after drive to keep Lakeland in the end zone and eventually taking the lead. He was efficient on his limited passes and great running the ball. He accounted for 3 of Lakeland’s rushing TDs!

THE PLAY: Lakeland trailed the entire first half and much of the third quarter until the defense started to slow down the Lion offense using their 6’5” defensive ends to block the horizontal screen game passing lanes. Down 21-32 mid way in the 3rd quarter, the Lakeland defense had Lake Nona pinned deep in their own territory. The Dreadnaughts blocked the punt and returned the loose ball for a TD pulling the Dreadnaughts within one score (Lake Nona 32 Lakeland 27). That play ignited the stadium and swung the momentum towards the home team. You could feel that defense could hold and the offense wasn’t about to slow down.

RECORD SETTER: Lake Nona QB, Tucker Isreal is pretty good. In the first half, he was on fire. Threw the horizontal screens (which account for a good chunk of his passing yards), intermediate passes and ball placement was on point on his deep balls. In total, he tossed 5 TD passes. The second half was another story. Once the momentum swung and the importance of game started to sink in for Lakeland, Isreal was shaky. He overthrew several racing receivers. He threw passes in the ground and when plays broke down, there was no counter.

BEHIND THE SECONDARY: Lakeland’s front seven was pretty darn good. Even the defensive backs played the screen game pretty well. The defense tackled well. However, it was really concerning watching the number of Lake Nona receivers getting behind the secondary. Over and over again, there was one and sometimes two Lion receivers beating a few of the Dreadnaught defensive players in coverage. In the first half, those receivers were getting in the end zone with the ball. In the second half, the passes were not being completed. But the crowd gasped on just about every Lake Nona second half drive because each possession, they had shot at hitting a quick hit, big play behind the secondary.

LAKELAND OFFENSIVE LINE: When the pressure was on, they were at their best. The media will headline Aaron Johnson and RB Anthony Davis JR. In addition to how good those two were, the offensive line was better. They pushed around the Lake Nona front seven and allowed the ball carriers to gash the Lake Nona defense. It was evident that the Lakeland offensive staff had confidence in their hogs upfront and it paid off. They wore down the Lake Nona defense and helped the team eventually win the game.

PLAY CALLING: At times, offensive coordinators like to show how smart they are and how big their playbook is which can lead to disaster. Not in this game. Lake Nona kept Lakeland off balance in the first half with the same few plays, just from different formations. Nona did a great job pulling the defense up with the screens, softening the defense with the slants and backing the defense up with the deep ball. Not to be out down, Bill Castle just kept throwing jabs. Boundary runs, boundary runs for 5 yards, 6 yards, 7 yards. Then he would throw a hook with the play action pass for 20 and 30 yards. Same plays, dive, QB Power, lead and trap. Over and Over again. Lake Nona could not stop it and Lakeland did not stop running it. At the same time, Dreadnaughts were crewing up the clock and ending drives with points. It was a thing of beauty!

SOPHOMORE BOUNCE BACK: RB Anthony Davis struggled early in the game. putting the ball on the ground twice (not sure he committed the 3rd fumble) in the first quarter. Limited play the remainder of the first half. The coaching did not “Dog House” him. but put him back in the fire the second half and boy did he tear it up. He scored two big second half TDs and racked up a bunch of yards on the ground. WR James Robinson showed more than just athleticism and talent. He showed toughness and unselfishness. Caught a few passes and pocketed a number of yards. Also played safety half the game and made some “Face Up” Tackles. He took some big hits and gave some big hits. Loved his toughness and guts!