Three-game win streaks are no stranger to Chagrin Falls football (3-2, 2-0), which has strung together such runs in each of the past 20 seasons.
But when the Tigers took to the road and put a 45-14 whipping on the Division II Lakeside Dragons (0-5) in Chagrin Valley Conference play on Friday night in Ashtabula County, they put together a three-game stretch at the midpoint of their campaign for the first time since 2012.
Behind lopsided field position and a marquee performance by 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior quarterback Dawson Pierce, Chagrin Falls raced to a 31-0 upper hand midway through the second quarter to extinguish Lakeside early.
“It’s been a good three weeks,” Chagrin Falls 25th-year head coach Mark Iammarino said. “I’ve seen consistent improvement from week to week, and we’ve told the kids we still have got a ways to go, but it’s nice to see that improvement.”
The Tigers did the majority of their damage with a 24-point first quarter, starting with a 28-yard field goal by 6-foot-4, 200-pound sophomore kicker Andrew Kirkpatrick.
Senior receiver Will Richmond then found the end zone on a 7-yard rush, Pierce dialed up junior receiver Will Tropp for a 22-yard touchdown, and then Dawson scored on a 1-yard keeper for the 24-0 lead at the quarter mark.
“I thought we had a good game plan going forward,” Iammarino said. “You know, I was just concerned about playing in a place we’ve never played before and a team we’ve never played before and really harped on that during the week – to come out ready to play and make sure you’re ready to go. And we did, which was a good thing.”
The Tigers took advantage of having the wind at their backs to open the game, with Kirkpatrick sailing kickoff after kickoff into the end zone for touchbacks.
“The other team is starting on the 20-yard line, and automatically our team has great field position, because our defense did well,” Iammarino said. “We took advantage of that. I don’t know that we had the ball on our own side of the field in the first half. So, you won’t see huge yardage, but we had a lot of points. That’s what’s more important. And I think that is a combination of our defense and our special teams as well.”
Chagrin Falls tallied just 237 yards of offense and 10 first downs, but the touchdowns continued to mount.
Tiger 5-foot-11 senior linebacker Lucas Gaizutis picked off a Lakeside pass and returned it 70 yards to set up 165-pound junior Xavier Perez’s 1-yard touchdown for that previously mentioned 31-0 upper hand midway through the second quarter.
Perez also finished the night with four catches for 27 yards, while Tropp had three catches for 61 yards and Richmond had five catches for 45 yards thanks to the efficiency of their signal-caller. Pierce was 14-of-17 passing for 165 yards with two touchdowns.
“Dawson Pierce had his best game,” Iammarino said. “He delivered the ball on time. We were able to protect him pretty well. And our receivers caught the ball. It was a good combination there, and it was nice to see that consistent development.”
Chagrin’s lone cough-up of the game came on a fumbled handoff during a sweep that Lakeside recovered in Tiger territory late in the second quarter.
The Dragons capitalized on a 4-yard touchdown toss from 6-foot-2 sophomore quarterback Garrette Siebeneck to wide-open 6-foot-1 junior Chris Steele to cut their deficit, 31-6, before halftime.
“We made some coverage adjustments that left guys open that we talked about at halftime, and we were able to make that change,” Iammarino said. “But give credit to Lakeside. They’ve got a nice young team. They’re very young, a good sophomore quarterback who throws it pretty well, and so we had to make some adjustments at halftime because we didn’t do a very good job of covering their receivers on that drive.”
Siebeneck finished 21-of-37 passing for 189 yards to motor Lakeside’s offense to 275 yards with 16 first downs.
But Chagrin’s Perez enacted a running clock with a 12-yard touchdown run for a 38-6 upper hand in the third quarter. Pierce scored on a 2-yard keeper for a 45-6 lead later in the frame, before the Tigers would sub out their starters.
Lakeside freshman running back J’Shon Sanders, who had 18 carries for 71 yards, scored on a 13-yard rush in the fourth quarter, followed by a two-point conversion, for the 45-14 final.
Defensively, Chagrin had a standout game from 190-pound senior Drew Zimmer, who had six quarterback pressures and a sack, as well as 185-pound junior linebacker Owen McClintock and 180-pound senior rover Will O’Brien, Iammarino said.
“We accomplished eight of our 10 goals on our goals chart, so, defensively, once again, we did a really good job for most of the game,” the coach said. “There were definitely some things that we need to improve upon. Score aside, we made some mistakes. Before half, I felt like we let up a little bit in our concentration and focus.
“So, we need to have a clean week in practice. We need to continue to strive to get better and stop any self-inflicted mistakes. Those are the things that drive you crazy.”