|LC skipper to dial down celebration, if necessary |
|Posted: Thursday, November 10, 2011 7:02 pm |
|By MIKE HUTCHENS |
Messenger Sports Editor
If Lake County somehow manages to beat Union City a second time this season in Friday’s second round Class 1A playoff game, look for David Barger to stay as far away from the postgame celebration as possible.
“I’ll just smile real big and get in the golf cart and go to the locker room,” the Lake County coach laughed. “No ‘bombs’ or ‘Bernie dancing.’”
As a direct result of his exuberance after the Falcons rallied from 16 points down to beat Union City 52-46 in a wild Week 8 shootout, Barger has been confined to crutches and underwent surgery for a torn Achilles tendon suffered in the immediate aftermath of the LC triumph.
The coach, in an admitted emotional postgame celebration, had planned to emulate a celebration act by the Tornadoes a couple of weeks earlier. He said he turned to sprint toward his team’s huddle and “thought somebody had kicked me in the back of my leg.”
An accurate diagnosis later, though, revealed the severity of the injury and aforementioned operation the Monday before Lake County’s final regular season game against Halls.
Barger has been largely confined to a golf cart as a mode of transportation to and from the practice and game field but hopes to be fitted with a walking boot earlier Friday before his Falcons and UC meet up in a much-anticipated rematch.
“I’d promised the kids I’d do it (the celebration) if we won, and in the excitement afterward, I just pivoted and took off toward them and the huddle and my Achilles just snapped,” the coach said. “And then, they dumped water on me, not knowing I was hurt, so there I was shivering and with a torn Achilles. I think they thought I was cramping or something.
“Like a lot of people approaching 40, I found out I’m not nearly as young as I used to be.”
He vowed nothing could keep him away from Friday’s rematch, however, and was actually at practice the day following his surgery and in attendance at War Memorial Stadium on Friday night to witness the Tornadoes’ first-round playoff romp over MAHS.
“I had to see if (Union City head coach Darren) was going to be in the spread or something,” he laughed.
The Oct. 7 meeting be-tween Lake County and Union City continued a recent trend between the two programs that have become respectful rivals in all sports.
In three of the past four meetings, the two clubs have combined to score 96 or more points, with UC tallying at least 40 in all four of those contests that have been split two games apiece.
The 7-3 Falcons, who had a first-round postseason bye, have certainly been the more explosive of the two teams in those shootouts, this year’s first meeting a prime example.
Though outgained 475-312 all together by the more methodical Tornadoes, Lake County used a spectacular individual performance by receiver Rafael Tyler — who had six catches for 259 yards and three touchdowns — to stun the Purple and Gold with 28 unanswered points after falling behind 34-18 late in the first half.
Most of Tyler’s receptions came despite being double- and triple-coverage, and his 97-yard catch-and-run when the Falcons were backed up next to their own goal line was the signature play in the stunning turn of events.
“That’s been our thing, our athletes have made plays when we needed them to when we’ve won big games,” Barger said. “We’ve been fortunate to have not only Rafeal, but Devon Jones, (Ricky) Boyd, Caleb Bledsoe, and our quarterback (Nick Price) has come on, too.
“We can’t expect to score 40 or 50 points every time out, but we have been able to do that several times when we’ve needed to.”
More than one-third of Tyler’s total receiving yardage came in that earlier game with the Twisters. An all-stater as a junior, he’s commanded much attention from opposing defenses, yet still has 27 catches for 678 yards (25.1 avg.) and 10 TDs. He’s also a dangerous return man, though foes regularly have kicked in the opposite direction, resulting in pedestrian 269 return yards and a score.
Boyd and Jones have been a steady one-two rushing punch in the Falcon backfield, each with nearly 600 yards on the ground and 19 touchdowns between them. Both are receiving threats, too, for Price — a converted center — who has thrown for 1,323 yards and 18 TDs with just six interceptions.
Defensively, LC has been shaky at times, but solid at others.
Jones is the top tackler with 79 total, 10 for lost yardage, from the secondary. Linebacker Caylan Bargery has been credited with 68 stops — six behind the line — while Bledsoe has a team-high four interceptions and is Price’s No. 2 receiving target behind Tyler.
The unit was weakened by the loss of leading tackler Craig Lewis — who had a key goal-line stop of Union City’s Keylon Hyde in the earlier meeting — when Lewis broke his ankle while jumping from the back of a truck during the Falcons’ homecoming parade.
Don’t count on Barger to be doing any jumping on Friday, regardless of the outcome. And that’s been a practice that’s taken some getting used to, even in preparations leading up to the contest
“It’s been tough on me because I’m such a hands-on coach who likes to get in there with the kids,” he said. “I’m hopeful I can get into a boot by Friday night and at least can be a little more mobile and get rid of these crutches.
“I don’t want to get too close, though.”
One can never tell when something might blow up in their face.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com. Published in The Messenger 11.10.11