PORTAGE – It’s a new season and Lakeview might have a new look as it starts the 2016 campaign.
The Spartans will still lean heavily on its run-oriented veer-option offense throughout the year, but Lakeview debuted a new-look passing game in the season opener and the result was a 35-20 win over Portage Northern in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference non-division action at Portage Northern on Thursday.
In his first start at quarterback on varsity, Lakeview’s Josiah Kitchen had two touchdown passes and a long touchdown run to help the Spartans get the win.
“I was nervous at first, my first start at QB, but once we got going I felt better,” Kitchen said. “They were overloading the line, so we knew we had shots down field. They were blitzing everything, so I just looked for the pass downfield and it was there.”
The Spartans rarely passed the ball in the last several years as they dominated on the ground, but Portage Northern dared the Spartans to pass and that’s what they did.
“Josiah has a really nice touch on his ball and we’ve been working on that,” Lakeview coach Matt Miller said. “He was a backup last year and he had a great offseason and we knew he was ready and it showed. We are so proud of him. It was his turn to step up and be a starter and he did.”
Lakeview opened the scoring in the first quarter as Portage Northern gave the Spartans a short field, giving the ball over on the 26. Lakeview scored five plays later on a 5-yard touchdown run by C.J. Foster to make it 7-0 with 2:59 left in the period.
On the next play from scrimmage however, Portage Northern would respond as big Husky tailback Joe Brown rumbled for 80 yards for a score to cut the lead to 7-6.
Lakeview had another manageable field to work with on the next possession as Jay’Vion Settles had a 60-yard kickoff return to give the Spartans the ball on the Portage Northern 35.
Lakeview’s passing game kicked in after that as Kitchen hit Ethan Eldridge on a swing pass in the flat, leading to a 32-yard touchdown for a 14-6 lead with 1:52 left in the opening quarter.
The Huskies would put together a 10-play drive early in the second quarter, helped out by some key Lakeview penalties, and would score on a five-yard touchdown pass from Michael Lincoln to Duane Jackson to cut the lead to 14-13 with 8:59 remaining in the half.
Late in the half, with Portage Northern looking to score before intermission, the Spartans came up with a big turnover as Caleb Edwards grabbed an interception to give Lakeview the ball on its own 32 with just 1:07 left in the half.
However, Lakeview did not sit on the ball as the passing game was key once again with Kitchen hitting Hunter Baize for a 38-yard pass to get the ball down to the 12. One play later, Kitchen found tight end Steven Laws for a 12-yard touchdown pass to give Lakeview a 21-13 lead with less than a minute left before halftime.
“We have a saying that we run to win, but we pass to score,” Miller said. “People say we don’t throw the ball, but really what we are is a big-play offense. Sometimes those big plays come with the run and sometimes they come with the pass like tonight.”
Lakeview added two scores in the second half as the Spartans put the game away, the first being a 94-yard quarterback keeper by Kitchen to make it 28-13.
CJ Foster later added a 65-yard touchdown run to make it 35-20 for a final score.
The Spartan defense also came up big when it needed to in the second half with interceptions by Eldridge and Cameron Gillette.
Kitchen led the Lakeview offense with 120 yards rushing on six carries as Foster added 133 yards.
Lakeview goes to 1-0 and has a bye next week as the Spartans will play an eight-game schedule this year.
“This was a nice win in our opener against a good program,” Miller said. “With us not having a Week 2 opponent, this was such a big game for us. You don’t want to be 0-1 with two weeks to think about it.”