Defense lifts Conant past Lake Park

By Bill Esbrook
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 8/27/2021 11:32 PM

Conant's defense came alive in the second half Friday at Lake Park, and it led the Cougars to an opening-night win over the Lancers.

Sparked by the play of senior quarterback Frank Moorman, Lake Park put 20 points on the board in the first half.


Then the Cougars clamped down, shutting out the Lancers in the final two quarters en route to a 35-20 victory.

"We had a talk with our coaches (at halftime)," said Conant defensive lineman Charles Mitchell. "They gave us a big motivation boost, and it really got us back into the game. We understood what we had to do, and we knew how to execute it thanks to our coaches."

On the offensive side, Cougars senior quarterback Giuseppe Dugo rushed for 3 touchdowns, all in the first half.

Dugo finished with 176 yards on the ground in the game.

"He's tremendous," said Conant coach Bryan Stortz of Dugo. "Athletically, he's gifted, and mentally the things that he does are outstanding as well. He called about half the game tonight."

Lake Park matched Conant touchdown for touchdown in the initial two quarters, as Moorman (28-yard sweep), Malachi Brown (6-yard rush), and Lucah Jones (6-yard run) all put scores on the board for the home team.

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Conant opened the third quarter with a long drive that culminated in a 1-yard TD run by Dominick Mininni to make it 28-20.

Ryan Kutella tacked another score on later for the Cougars, and Conant held Lake Park off the scoreboard on all four of the Lancers' second-half drives.

Armando Hernandez, Aman Wolfe, Mitchell and Stone Moss gave a big assist to the Cougars' second-half effort on "D" with a fierce pass rush.

Lake Park's best chance came in the fourth when it drove to the 33-yard line of Conant, but the Cougars forced four straight incompletions to stop the drive, the last coming on a nice pass breakup by Dovi Orhorha.

Declan Fortuna led the Lancers' defensive effort with a key first-half interception.

"Our kids just needed to settle in," added Stortz of Conant's stellar play in the second half. "First time seeing a live opponent doing some different things in a game, coming out and adjusting to the speed of the game, and the schemes that they (Lake Park) were running. We've got a lot of young guys, and there's a lot of things on which they needed to work on, learn, listen and grow from their mistakes."

"Honestly, I think this win is a huge confidence boost," said Mitchell. "We've going to try to keep everyone on track and keep it going."

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