By Tom Robinson, NEPASportsNation.com
CHAPMAN LAKE – The Lakeland defense spent the first half setting up touchdowns.
In the second half, the Chiefs defenders finished the job and went right to the end zone themselves.
Lacota Dippre and Evan Pochas returned interceptions for touchdowns 1:43 apart late in the third quarter Saturday night to finish off a 44-7 rout of Lake-Lehman in the District 2 Class 3A football semifinals.
Pochas also had an interception to set up a touchdown in the first half when Dippre recovered a fumble that led to a touchdown and forced another that led to a field goal.
In all, the Lakeland defense forced 7 turnovers on a night when it also threw Lake-Lehman ballcarriers for a dozen losses totaling 40 yards.
“Defense played amazing,” Chiefs coach Dave Piwowarczyk said.
The big plays made it easier for the Lakeland offense, which provided plenty of its own production.
Dominico Spataro passed for 166 yards and 2 touchdowns in the first half when he also supplied an interception. He finished 18-for-31 for 217 yards.
The Chiefs opened a 31-0, second-quarter lead by scoring on five straight possessions. They scored four straight touchdowns beginning with a drive that started at midfield and following it up by taking over on turnovers at the Black Knights 20, 7 and 39.
“The D-Line did a great job, great pressure and just penetration right up the middle,” Spataro said. “They couldn’t really run the ball up the middle.”
The only time Lakeland scored on a drive that started in its own territory was on the next possession when it began from the 38 and moved down for a field goal.
The four straight touchdown drives came in a span of 7:25, spilling into the start of the second quarter. They started with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Jon Seamans and ended with an 11-yarder to Kevin Snyder, who finished with 9 catches for 137 yards.
“My wide receivers, they’re the best in the area,” Spataro said. “Their routes, their hands and just their attitude. They know that the ball’s going to get spread around and they’re not all caught up in ‘I need to get catches’.”
In between Spataro’s touchdown passes, Jaron Bullick had 1 and 7-yard touchdown runs.
The 7-yard touchdown came on the first play after Pochas returned an interception 33 yards.
Dippre, Pochas and Seamans all had big games defensively.
Along with the 3 turnovers he was involved in that led to 17 points, 3 of Dippre’s 6 tackles went for losses. He also rushed the passer into a fourth turnover, a Seamans interception.
Pochas added to his two interceptions with four tackles, four assists and a broken-up pass. One of his tackles went for a loss.
Seamans had six tackles, including one for a loss, and an assist to go along with his interception.
After Lakeland made it 31-0 on Zach Janosky’s 31-yard field goal, Javon Borger ran 68 yards for the only Lake-Lehman score on the next play.
Lake-Lehman stopped Lakeland on downs at the 1 in the third quarter, but never got out of the hole.
Dippre returned an interception 20 yards, then Pochas followed it up, scoring from the 36 with 32 seconds left in the third quarter to send the game into the Mercy Rule.
Lakeland improved to 10-1 and advanced to the semifinals of a strong Class 3A season.
“This is not a shock to us,” Spataro said of the team’s success.
The playoff victory earned Lakeland a rematch at Wyoming Area (9-1), the team that handed the Chiefs their only loss, 19-14.
“We have to come out and just execute a little better than we did the first time,” Piwowarczyk said. “Not so many penalties and not so many coaching errors.”
Lake-Lehman finished 4-6 in a season that began and ended with losses to Lakeland.