Fraser – St. Clair Shores Lakeview was fine-tuning an assortment of plays Wednesday while preparing for its Division 2 district championship game.
The indoor practice at the Fraser Total Soccer facility was a reward for Lakeview (8-2), which is having one of the best seasons in school history, winning seven games during the regular season for the first time since 1971 and earning a program-best eighth victory in a 36-14 predistrict win over Mount Clemens L’Anse Creuse.
Now, Coach Pat Threet will try to guide Lakeview to its first district championship when it plays host to MAC Blue rival Port Huron (7-3) Friday night. Lakeview won the regular-season game between the teams, 35-21 in Week 8, to finish second in the division behind Port Huron Northern.
Northern defeated Lakeview 23-6 in Week 3 and Port Huron 29-26 in Week 7, but Michigan-bound defensive end Braiden McGregor went down with a season-ending injury and Port Huron won the rematch between the teams in the predistrict, 27-21.
Lakeview finished 7-4 last season, winning a playoff game before falling to Port Huron Northern 14-7 in overtime in the district championship.
“Every team wants to come in and be the best team ever to go through the school,” said 6-foot-5, 200-pound senior safety/receiver Isaiah Robinson. “We were all happy and excited after we got the seven-win regular season, but I think we were really focused for the postseason. Then once we got the win (over L’Anse Creuse) we came back Monday, and we were settled in, ready for the next game.
“I think we’ve really matured this year. We win a game, and then move on to the next one. I think we’re just really focused and ready to make history. We’re all very close, a lot of us have played football together since we were little kids. We all know for a lot of us this is the last time we’ll play together. We all have each other’s back and we’re just hoping for the best.”
Robinson started the season playing just defense at safety, but Threet has inserted him at receiver late in the season and he has responded with a pair of TD catches, one in the predistrict game.
Threet is happy with what his team has accomplished so far. He is in his fifth year, taking over a program that had won a combined six games in three years (6-21) prior to his arrival.
“When we won our seventh game the AD said it was the first time since 1971 that a team won seven games in a nine-game season, and I think it was just the third time it ever happened,” Threet said. “We’re back-to-back playoffs for the first time in school history and this is now three out of four years we’ve made the playoffs.”
This is Threet’s second tour of duty as head coach at Lakeview. He was head coach back in 2009 and 2010, leading the program to its first state playoff appearance in 2010 and getting a win before a Division 2 district final loss to Warren De La Salle, finishing at 7-4.
Threet said balance is one key to the team’s success.
“We don’t have a lot of holes,” Threet said. “We’re pretty solid all the way around. We have team camaraderie. The guys root for each other. It’s not like we have just one guy. We have a bunch of guys who can play, and they work hard.”
Lakeview is led by 6-2, 265-pound defensive tackle/tight end Harold Irby, who has offers from Grand Valle, Saginaw Valley and Western Illinois, along with four-year varsity player in 5-9, 160-pound running back/cornerback Evan Rochon, as well as Robinson.
“Harold is a hard worker and is tough,” Threet said. “Evan Rochon is a 4.5 (40) kid who is probably the best kid I’ve ever coached as far as being a great runner and being able to catch the football, and he returns punts. He’s rushed for over a thousand yards and scored 17 touchdowns.
“We’re basically a (wing) T football team, but we do have a spread set. We have a sophomore quarterback, Tristan Witt, who has really come on. We kept it simple early on but have opened things up and he’s thrown for 14 touchdowns with just one interception, and we’ve moved Isaiah Robinson to receiver and he caught a 60-yard touchdown in the playoff game and one the week before.
“Isaiah’s 6-foot-5, a great athlete, has great speed and is very rangy. He covers a lot of ground as a free safety for us and he’ll come up and hit.”
Irby enjoys his role as a blocking tight end.
“We have some of our best athletes at tight end because they can kind of block in a bunch of different schemes,” Irby said. “You just have to be strong and have good feet, that’s why me and Jude Hage are the tight ends.
“We can be one of the best offensive lines around, but I think one of the best parts of our whole team is definitely our defense. We have such a strong defensive core from the inside out. Our defensive line and middle linebackers especially, and then you can go to the outside linebackers and the secondary. We’re talented all over.”
Rochon and Tony Lovett are among the running backs, happy with how Irby, Hage & Co. get the blocking done.
“I just have to hand it to the boys up front,” Rochon said. “They’ve had a great season and I couldn’t have had the success I’ve had without them.”
Said Lovett: “Our blocking schemes are really good, our deception basically since we run three backs, so you never know who has the ball because of how we carry our fakes. We have to play at a high level (Friday) – no mistakes, can’t hurt ourselves.”
This is Port Huron’s first state playoff appearance since 2014. It last won a district title in 2011.