In a battle of new attitudes, Conant came up a little more positive Friday night in a football season-opening 19-14 win over visiting Lake Park.
Both teams are trying to reverse the disappointment of 2-7 records of a year ago. Conant, despite leaving points on the field thanks to "unfinished" drives, showed it's ready to attack adversity.
"I knew our team could do it," said running back Kevin Otubu, whose 85 yards lead Conant's attack, including his tackle-breaking 7-yarder to provide the winning TD. It also concluded an 89-yard, 14-play drive with 7:15 left in the game.
The drive was typical of Conant's performance all night, as the Cougars outgained the Lancers 364-202 and dominated time of possession and field position. But two long drives ended with missed field goals after a mix of penalties and failed execution after the Cougars looked all-world in moving the ball.
"That was disappointing," said Conant coach Bill Modelski. But it's also an opportunity. "We have to overcome that."
Some of it had to do with the defensive effort of Lake Park, which yielded yards but only 7 first-half points as Patrick Mroczkoski and Matt Mysliwiec made play after play in the clutch deep in their own territory. And it was 7-7 at the half after LaCurt Evans' spinning, tackle-breaking 51-yard TD run in the first quarter got Lake Park out of its offensive doldrums.
"I'm so proud of the effort," despite the loss, said first-year Lake Park coach Chris Roll. His club somehow slipped ahead when Kevin Gehant led a third-quarter drive with sharp passing to James Sowa and Scott Filip and then found a somehow wide-open Danny Sommers on a corner route for a 19-yard score and a 14-13 lead. After completing just 2 passes in the first half, Gehant finished 9-of-18 for 87 yards.
But Conant's Cullen had more than that at halftime as his club marched up and down the field behind the blocking of Andrew Nagel, John Schaul, Mike Smith, Kevin Modelski and big Paul Perschon. The Cougars rushed for 209 yards and got TD runs of 10 yards from Cordell Smith (10 carries, 48 yards before suffering cramps), 13 yards from Jacobi Sims (9 carries, 45 yards and leg cramps), and, of course, Otubu.
"The offensive line blocked great tonight," he said, although, he acknowledged, "We had some errors. We have to cut the mental errors."
"We didn't finish very well on our drives," especially in the first half, said Modelski. "We have to overcome that."
"The defense did real well for the most part," except for breaking down on Evans' run and Lake Park's lengthy TD drive in the second half. Otherwise, Colin Otubu, Gino Prestia and Co. kept Lake Park in check.
Roll sees room for improvement after a little more work.
"We have to end the little mistakes," he said of Lake Park's loss in its 500th varsity game. "(We) figured out every little mistake adds up."
Now, that's the attitude.