Return to Glory, Cowboys Ride. Lakeland vs. Hillsborough County

Shug Oyengunle, Gaither, ATH, 2013

How does Gaither win? The task seems so daunting and impossible. What can Gaither do to help Gaither and force the Dreadnaughts to self-destruct?

Accountability is your answer. During Wednesday’s practice, the Gaither Cowboys hit the field in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets. During this time of the year, teams are not trying to beat each other up, yet heal from the long season. The Cowboys Wednesday practice was about FOCUS. Just like at any big time program, 2 days outside of game day is not used to kill your teammates, but iron out the wrinkles on offense and work on small adjustments on defense.  Anytime there was a lack of focus, missed tackle, dropped pass, blown assignment, bad read, the entire Cowboy team stopped and started “up downs”.  The staff wanted to stress that each player had a job to do and the whole team depends on the success of each player doing their job.

Before practice even started, Head Coach, Jason Stokes and a few assistants, huddled up and agreed to place an emphasis on accountability during each and every segment of practice. Too many self-inflicted mistakes almost cost the Cowboys the game vs. Tampa Bay Tech last Friday and if they are going to lose this game against Lakeland, the Dreadnaughts will have to beat them. They are not going to allow the Cowboys to beat the Cowboys with a lack of focus, metal errors or lack of accountability.

Down Year for Lakeland?
Some say Lakeland is down this year, they are not as strong. They are not the Dreadnaughts we are accustomed to seeing. But Lakeland is still Lakeland. The Naughts will enter Friday’s 3rd round party undefeated even after a number of key players were ruled ineligible at the start of the season. Lakeland is averaging 33 points per game and holding opponents to just 11 points per contest. They have only allowed opponents more than 14 points on two occasions (Kathleen and St. Cloud both scored 21 points).

But, what you probably didn’t know is that Gaither has performed pretty well also. At 9-3, the Cowboys will line up in front of a packed Bryant stadium averaging 27 points per game and allowing opponents just 13 points per game. 5 teams posted more than 14 points on the Cowboys in 2011; Plant City 21, TBT 17, East Bay16, Chamberlain 20 and Durant 30.

The stingy defense, led by senior LB, Josh Scarberry will need to create turnovers and contain the athletic and talented Orange/Black offense. Sophomore QB, Alex McGough must make smart decisions. He does not have to win the game for Gaither, just not lose it.

Lakeland vs. Gaither and the Rest

Lakeland RB

Gaither’s team history versus Lakeland is short. The Cowboys and the Dreadnoughts have only met once, 2006 where Lakeland crushed the Cowboys 37-0. But, Lakeland has had their way with Hillsborough County teams as a whole…till recently. Against some of Hillsborough County’s most successful programs, the Dreadnaughts are 2-0 vs. Jesuit, 5-3 vs. Robinson, 16-4 vs. Jefferson and 8-0 vs. Armwood. Plant has gone toe to toe with Lakeland at 12-12-3, while the Hillsborough Terriers claim a 30-18-3 all-time record vs. Lakeland. With the teams listed above, add Brandon, Bloomingdale, Leto, Gaither and East Bay, the Lakeland Dreadnaughts are an astounding 99-58-7 all-time vs. the listed Hillsborough County teams (including playoffs).

But this is the Playoffs and Gaither should expect Lakeland to come out more motivated, more inspired and hungry. Over the years, Lakeland has ruled Hilsborough County in the post season. Plant punched back over the past two seasons. Defeating Lakeland in Lakeland, 20-0 in 2009 and 48-6 in 2010 in South Tampa. Only Hillsborough High, Plant and Wharton have defeated Lakeland in the playoffs since 1979; the Plant victories previously mentioned, 2001 26-7 loss to Hillsborough, 2002 27-7 loss to Wharton and 2003 41-14 loss again to Hillsborough. Overall, Lakeland is 22-5 against Hillsborough County teams in the playoff since ’79, outscoring the opponent 618-324 with 5 shutouts and only shutout once, playing Hillsborough County teams each year since 1999.

Lakeland Playoff History v Hillsborough County.

1979 13-12 win v Plant
1984 19-9 win v Plant
1986 38-14 win v Jefferson
1999 28-0 win v Chamberlain
1999 58-6 win v Plant City
1999 19-14 win v Hillsborough
2000 10-0 win v Chamberlain
2001 26-7 loss v Hillsborough
2002 29-14 win v Chamberlain
2002 27-7 loss v Wharton
2003 41-14 loss v Hillsborough

2004 35-24 win v Chamberlain
2004 40-20 win v Hillsborough
2005 41-0 win v East Bay
2005 49-0 win v Chamberlain
2006 49-6 win v Brandon
2006 37-0 win v Gaither
2007 31-17 win v Brandon
2008 48-6 win v Bloomingdale
2008 40-20 win v Chamberlain
2009 20-0 loss v Plant
2010 48-6 loss v Plant