For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Lutheran West Longhorns football team had the opportunity Friday night to host a playoff game.
Coming in as the eighth-seed against visiting ninth-seed Sandusky Perkins, the Longhorns knew they were in for a competitive matchup.
And while the scoreboard alone wouldn’t indicate a competitive game, with the Pirates ultimately winning 34-14, there was plenty that first-year coach for Lutheran West, John Parrella, that made him proud.
“For us, on our team, we’re just young,” Parrella said. “We start five freshmen on defense and I think we were tight early. I blame myself for that, we have to get the kids looser. But hey, we had a great year – best in history – and we’ll be back to get even better next year.”
While that youth is visible from just a glimpse at the Longhorns roster – 13 of their 51 total players are seniors, 25 percent of the team – Parrella said it was those senior leaders that helped get his team where they were this season.
“I told them all year, ‘You’re leaving a legacy here,’” Parrella said. “The next class comes in and says, ‘That’s how I want to do it,’ or (they) come in and say, ‘We have to do the complete opposite.’ They’re going to come back next year and hit the gym right away and realize what the senior class did.
“They build a legacy of character, hard work and tenacity to fight,” Parrella added. “They took a team that hasn’t had a record like this or hosted a playoff game in years. We’re excited where we’re at with the state of the program. We learned a lot this year and we’re excited about our future.”
Two of those senior leaders were quarterback Jack LaPointe and running back Eddie Lewis. Against a stifling Pirates defense, LaPointe completed 12 of 19 passes for 132 yards, a touchdown and an interception, and Lewis carried the ball 16 times for 23 yards.
Though the season didn’t end how they were hoping, it isn’t lost on either of them what they accomplished this season.
“(This season) meant everything to us and we knew at some point it would end,” Lewis said. “We came out here all offseason and worked our butts off. We knew that once we left the field and we left it all out there, we couldn’t be mad at ourselves. We had a great season and we played great.”
Looking forward, LaPointe and Lewis know the impact that they have had on the program for years to come.
“This is just the beginning,” LaPointe said. “We doubled our size on the team from last year to this year and it’s going to just keep going up from there. Even though it’s our last year, we’re so happy to see the direction it has taken. It’s going straight up and it’s going to keep doing that.”
The Pirates came out fast, scoring on three of their first five plays from scrimmage – all carries by senior running back Collin Nemitz – to open up a 20-7 lead just seconds into the second quarter.
And while the Longhorns kept the Pirates’ ground attack at bay for most of the rest of the game, sophomore quarterback Logan Lesch and junior wide receiver Jayden Rowe connected twice for Perkins’ final 14 points of the game.
Lutheran West got scores from freshman running back Jamarrion Banks and junior receiver Kelly Conway.
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