By Michael Wojtychiw
Taft and Lane have been two of the more successful football, and athletic overall, CPL programs on the North Side of the city. The two compete for similar students, with some of the kids in the Taft attendance area enrolling at Lane, a fact that accentuates the rivalry even more.
Of late, the rivalry has extended onto the football field as well, with the two having met four times in the past two years, once in the regular season and once in the city playoffs. The Eagles held a 3-1 edge in those four games, including a 44-0 blowout in the Prep Bowl playoffs last season. So when the two met on Friday at Lane Stadium, it was the host Champions looking to close that 3-1 gap.
Unfortunately for the home team, it wasn’t to be, as Taft walked out of Lane Stadium with a 20-7 victory, evening both teams’ records at 2-2.
“I’ve been the head coach for three years, we’ve had five or six games with them in that time.” Taft coach Zach Elder said. “They’ve all been pretty, pretty tightly contested with the exception of one. So we know what’s going to happen. I’m always happy with our guys when they’re able to keep their composure. And that was something that we were able to do today.
“We’ve had games in the past where it turns into a flag fast on both sides. We were minimally flagged, we kept our composure the whole time. So that’s that’s a big sign. Because we got young kids, we’re still pretty young. So for them to keep their composure in that moment and execute. That’s huge for us. It’s huge for our growth and our development.”
Lane started with the ball and decided to go for it on 4th-and-1 on the game’s opening possession, converting on the play. however, the next play resulted in an interception by Stephen Carrera, giving the Eagles starting field position at the Champions’ 45-yard-line.
Ten plays later, including eight runs, a four-yard pass by quarterback Logan Roman had the visitors up 7-0.
“I told them, this is a team effort,” Elder said. “But getting that first pick, getting the ball in good territory, getting to punch it in, you know, get our momentum on our side. And that was the that was the difference. The second half was a pretty even game. First half, we were able to get up to scores quick. They score one late, but we had momentum and we were able to be positive with it.”
A bad snap on fourth down after a three-and-out on the next possession yet again set up Taft in Lane territory, this time at the 37.
Jaiden Padilla capped off the drive with a three-yard touchdown run and the Eagles were up 13-0.
Lane, which this year abandoned the Wing-T, heavy-run offense it had been running the last couple of years in favor of more of a balanced, spread-like offense, finally got its footing in the second quarter, getting the ball back at its own 28 with 10 minutes, 13 seconds left in the half. It proceeded to go on a 12-play, 72-yard drive that took more than seven minutes off the clock.
Junior quarterback Noah Mayra ran it in from four yards out and the two teams went to halftime with Taft up 13-7.
Roman’s second touchdown pass on the third quarter’s opening drive gave the Eagles all the points they’d need, as the defense stood out, shutting down the Lane offense. Roman connected with Steven Tantchev on a 29-yard completion for the final score.
Taft is back at home this weekend against Bulls prep before a huge test versus Kenwood in two weeks, while the Champions are at Clark this weekend before a huge test of their own against Simeon next week.