BY BRANDON HOWARD
Lake Placid was in Clewiston on Friday night for a key Class 4A-District 6 game against the Tigers.
The Dragons put up a valiant effort, which included some stellar play from recently called up junior varsity players, but the Tigers were too much to overcome, and the Dragons eventually succumbed, 46-3.
The loss puts Lake Placid at 2-4 overall and 0-2 in district play, while Clewiston improved to 6-1 and 2-0.
"Fumbles hurt us," said Lake Placid coach Jason Holden. "And it was a tough match up for us as well. Clewiston has a lot of speed, and they stacked the box against us, knowing that we like to run."
The highlight for the Dragons came from Jason Blake, a defensive end who was recently promoted to the varsity squad. Blake halted a Tigers drive when he intercepted a wayward pass, returning it into Clewiston territory.
While Lake Placid's offense had trouble finding the end zone, the Dragons did come away with some points as they were able to boot a short field goal.
Still, even with the bright spots, Holden knows his team has to improve on its ball security or it won't have much success during the final stretch of the season.
"We've got to get them to understand that ball security should be second nature," he said. "We'll continue to work on that in practice as the season goes on."
Much of the fumbling miscues Holden attributed to mental lapses, explaining that he thinks his players worry too much about fumbling, thus losing control of the ball while carrying it.
"It's absolutely mental," Holden said. "It's like when they have one fumble, they worry so much about fumbling again that it just happens. We need to teach them to react and stop thinking so much about it, and it will happen less."
Holden's theory does have some validity. Earlier in the year, during the season opener against Celebration, the Dragons played a near-flawless game until about the third quarter.
That's when the dreaded "fumbleitis" set in, and the Dragons couldn't seem to hold on to the ball. Even when transferring it between the quarterback to a running back on a hand off, or snapping the ball from the center to quarterback, the ball found its way onto the ground. Luckily, Lake Placid's defense responded in that game and the Dragons escaped with a win.
Holden knows that won't always be the case though, especially with district rival and Highlands County foe Avon Park looming on the schedule.
Up next for Lake Placid is a nondistrict road game against Bishop Verot. Kick off is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday.
The real test for the Dragons is in two weeks, on Nov. 1, when Lake Placid hosts Avon Park. The Red Devils and Dragons share a handful of opponents, and this year's game could be the deciding factor between who finishes second in the 4A-6 standings. The second place team automatically makes the district playoffs. Avon Park lost its most recent district game to LaBelle, in a heart breaker, 31-28, when a spirited fourth quarter comeback fell short. Lake Placid has also faced LaBelle, losing to the Cowboys earlier in the year 59-32.
"We know what to work on and what we need to improve on," Holden said. "So this week in practice we'll be trying to fix the mental errors and keep on getting better.