Dragons weather the Storm

CELEBRATION - Bad weather has a habit of interrupting Lake Placid football games. But at Friday night's season opener the Green Dragons had no problem taming the Storm on the field, as they routed Class 7A Celebration by a score of 28-14. "This is the best we've ever seen Celebration," Lake Placid coach Jason Holden said. "This about the ninth time we've played them and they're much improved. But despite the kind words from Holden, he said that he was pleased his Dragons came away with the victory.
"Winning is great," he said. "We were actually blessed by the weather delay. Because during warm-ups I could tell our guys weren't focused while Celebration's were. It let us have a little bit more time in the locker room to regroup." After a lightning delay pushed kick off back an hour and a half, Celebration put up an early score to take a 7-0 lead. On just the third play of the game, Storm quarterback Grant Crider escaped the pocket and scampered up the sidelines nearly 50 yards for a touchdown. The Green Dragons responded with a scoring drive of their own, paced by their run game and a slew of off-sides penalties drawn on the Storm courtesy of quarterback Robert Walton's play calling. Lake Placid alternated hand-offs between running backs Marquavein Copeland and Eldon Mckenzie, while Copeland capped off the drive with a 15-yard touchdown jaunt. A swarming defense held Celebration to a punt and Lake Placid went right back on the offensive. Again relying on the ground game, the Green Dragons chewed up nearly five minutes and gained over 40 yards before Foster Walker broke free and reached Celebration's 1-yard line. Walton scored on the next play via a quarterback sneak and it Lake Placid took a 14-7 lead. "Our run game came prepared," Holden said. "Our staff had them coached up real well." Realizing the momentum swing, the Storm put together its best drive of the first half, marching down to Lake Placid's 20-yard-line. But a delay of game penalty and a monster sack by Jarrod Thorpe pushed them to the third-and-long. The Dragons managed to snuff the Storm's next play and Celebration was forced to punt. With Lake Placid now close to midfield and in possession of a couple of time outs, the Green Dragons were driving for one more score before halftime. After two running plays went backwards, the Dragons were facing a third-and-15 with just over 40 seconds left in the second quarter. And that's when Gang Green decided to take a gamble. Dropping back to pass, Walton gave his receivers some extra time with his feet, and dropped off a pass to Nick Tuason, who broke a handful of tackles en route to a 45-yard gain before being brought down near Celebration's goal line. It was just a formality from there, as Copeland punched it in to give the Dragons a 21-7 lead at the break. However, in the second half, Lake Placid looked like a completely different team. Walton fumbled a handful of times and threw an interception, the offense stalled, players missed blocks, and at one point, Walton even ran into one of his running backs during a hand-off. "We had interception, fumble, fumble, punt," Holden said. "We played hard, but we couldn't do anything." The offense managed to recover after a 36-yard punt return from Mckenzie sparked the Dragons. Copeland gained a handful of first down on the ground, opening up the team's passing attack, and Walton zipped a near-perfect back-shoulder pass to Jake Baker, who caught it just shy of Celebration's end zone. Walton dropped a touch pass off to Walker two plays later for a touchdown to make it 28-14. "He played great when he was focused," Holden said. "He made some nice passes and not every mistake was his fault, But we can't get complacent like that." Near the end of the game, Celebration threatened to score thanks to some dubious penalties. But another suffocating Green Dragons stand thwarted the Storm on fourth-and-goal. "We came here to win," Holden said. "That was first and foremost. But there are clearly some things we have to work on." Lake Placid will be on the road again for its next game, when it faces off against Moore Haven on Friday. Kick off is scheduled for 7 p.m. bhoward@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5841