CHAPMAN LAKE – Rich Sickler gave GAR the lead in the first half. He gave the Grenadiers one last shot to catch Lakeland in the second half.
Sickler’s physical two-way performance gave the Grenadiers an advantage on the ground, forcing the Chiefs to turn to the air for their opening night victory.
Senior Chet Anuszewski came through in his first varsity start at quarterback, throwing for 244 yards and two touchdowns Friday night to lead Lakeland to a 27-19 triumph in the rematch of one of last year’s District 2 Class AA football semifinals.
Sickler, a 5-foot-10, 190-pound senior, ran for 158 yards and a touchdown from his fullback position. As a linebacker, he made eight tackles, assisted on three others, and recovered a fumble in the end zone.
“Rich is one of those guys who brings his lunch bucket and gives you everything he has,” GAR coach Paul Wiedlich said.
GAR had one final shot at Lakeland when Sickler blew through gaps to throw the Chiefs for losses of three and four yards on simple off-tackle plays, stopping a drive at the 10.
The Grenadiers attempted to move the length of the field in the final 5:25, using three third-down conversions, two on tough inside runs by Sickler, to get as close as the Lakeland 30.
“Sickler’s tough as nails,” Lakeland coach Jeff Wasilchak said.
Jordan Tratthen’s sack and Josh Wayman’s fumble recovery with 35 seconds left sealed the win for Lakeland.
The Grenadiers came within inches of tying the game on the opening drive of the second half.
GAR moved 79 yards in 11 plays to score on a 2-yard Anthony Maurent touchdown run, but the kick for the tying point went off the upright, protecting a 20-19 Lakeland lead.
The Chiefs put together their own 11-play scoring drive, covering 63 yards and held on from there. Chris Roche scored his third touchdown on an 8-yard run and Josh Strong added the kick for the biggest Chiefs lead of the night.
Gavin O’Donnell caught five passes for 129 yards and the game’s first touchdown while Roche, a 1,000-yard rusher last season, made up for a tough night on the ground by catching four passes for 96 yards.
Lakeland 27, GAR 19
L – O’Donnell 56 pass from Anuszewski (bad snap), 9:59
GAR – Maurent 5 run (Reyes kick), 5:26
L – Roche 7 run (run failed), 6:50
GAR – Sickler 35 run (kick failed), 4:56
L – Roche 13 pass from Anuszewski (Roche run), 0:11
GAR – Maurent 2 run (kick failed), 6:11
L – Roche 8 run (Strong kick), 2:17
RUSHING — GAR, Sickler 15-158, Mathis 17-68, Maurent 13-71, Abdul-Qayir 2-minus 5. LAKE, Roche 20-45, Hockenberg 5-29, Anuszewski 3-24, Natale 1-15, Selvenis 3-14, Domonoski 2-10, Team 1-minus 2.
PASSING — GAR, Mathis 14-8-0-52. LAKE, Anuszewski 19-12-0-244, Team 1-0-0-0.
RECEIVING — GAR, Maurent 3-21, Kroll 1-13, Jackson 1-9, Sickler 1-9. LAKE, O’Donnell 5-129, Roche 4-76, Burton 1-19, Bomba 1-15, Natale 1-5.
INTERCEPTIONS — None.
MISSED FGs — None.