Published 8:35 pm Thursday, November 6, 2003
By By DAN WEISS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- The chance to make more history awaits the Niles varsity football team this Friday night in Stevensville.
The Vikings (7-3) will take on Lakeshore (9-1) in the Division 3, Region 2, District 1 championship game at 7:30 p.m.
Not only is it the first time Niles has ever appeared in a District championship game, it is a chance to beat the Lancers twice in a row for the first time ever.
Niles' first ever victory over Lakeshore came during the regular season of 2001, when the Vikings won the Big-16 Conference West Division title outright. In 2002, the Lancers avenged that loss during the regular season and went on to win the West title.
This season, Niles beat Lakeshore but the Lancers still won the West Division championship. The Vikings, however, can start a winning streak against Lakeshore Friday night.
While beating the Lancers again would be satisfying, a larger goal for the Vikings is to give themselves a chance to accomplish more in the State Playoffs.
The Vikings advanced to the District title game with a 34-28 victory over Sturgis in the first round. Lakeshore beat Gull Lake 28-3 to stay alive in the playoffs.
Senior running back Lonnie Jones, as he has throughout the season, sparkled for Niles last week. He carried the ball 31 times for a single-season school record 377 yards and five touchdowns.
The Vikings, however, showed a surprising amount of balance offensively as junior quarterback Jason Rutkowske completed 10-of-16 passes for 114 yards.
Speaking of passing attacks, Lakeshore has one of the best around with quarterback Shaine Tierney. The sophomore threw for 240 yards and two touchdowns against Gull Lake. On the season, Tierney has completed 87-of-145 passes for 1,489 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Niles played last week without two normal starters in seniors Marcus Lawshea and Josh Schoenthaler. Lawshea, who normally handles the placekicking and punting duties as well as plays linebacker, was out with a pulled hamstring. Schoenthaler, Jones' backfield partner, suffered a separated shoulder.
Janicki expects Schoenthaler to return Friday night but Lawshea's status is still up in the air and Janicki plans to use Stacy Caskey as a placekicker and Lyle Watson as a punter.
Senior defensive back Eddie Fultz also suffered a deep thigh bruise in last week's game.