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Pishotti's big plays spark Lakeview run

Bulldogs' senior leads team against Struthers tonight

November 8, 2013
By JOE SIMON - Tribune Chronicle (jsimon@tribtoday.com) , Underthelights

CORTLAND - Lakeview probably didn't realize it at the time, but its season was on the line - and it was only Week 5.

The Bulldogs, 1-3 at the time, were in a back-and-forth shootout with Girard, and the Indians were driving late in the fourth quarter with the game tied at 35. As Girard quarterback Nick Cardiero dropped back to pass, he felt a few Lakeview defenders closing in on him and fired a pass over the middle. The ball sailed a few inches over the outstretched hands of his intended receiver and right into the arms of Lakeview defensive back Jake Pishotti.

A long return by the senior set up the Bulldogs' go-ahead touchdown. Lakeview held on for a 42-35 victory and went on to win five more, finishing the year with seven consecutive wins after an 0-3 start to earn a playoff spot in Region 11 of Division IV. The seventh-seeded Bulldogs travel to Struthers, a No. 2 seed, at 7:30 p.m tonight.

Article Photos

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Lakeview senior Jake Pishotti leads the Bulldogs tonight for a Week 2 rematch against the Struthers Wildcats.

Looking back, a loss to the Indians would have most likely kept Lakeview out of the playoffs. Pishotti, who's been a playmaker on both sides of the ball for the Bulldogs, made sure that didn't happen.

"It was huge - absolutely huge," said Lakeview coach Tom Pavlansky of the impact the interception had on the Bulldogs. "It was one of those moments where in a big game of the season where you expected your senior who's having a career-best year to play his best and have his best game ever. And he did."

It's been that kind of season for Pishotti, a speedy wideout/running back with great athleticism. He leads Lakeview with 29 receptions, 626 yards and seven touchdowns, and he's also third on the team with 282 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 30 carries. His defense is just as good. Pavlansky said the 5-foot-10, 160-pound Pishotti takes on the opposing team's top receiver every week and usually shuts him down.

"Jake, overall, is one of our better athletes that we've had since I've been here," Pavlansky said. "He's got really quick feet, he runs really good routes and he has tremendous hand-eye coordination.

"Defensively, he's been our lockdown corner. He has over seven or eight pass break-ups this year and the one pick obviously came in a key moment against Girard."

No one is going to catch Pishotti gloating about his big plays. Instead of pointing out his play on the ball when he made the interception against Girard or instincts to recognize the errant throw, he talked about other factors of the play.

"Watching film on it the next day, I saw that our D-lineman and our linebackers got a lot of pressure on their quarterback," he said. "When he overthrew his receiver, it was due to their pressure on him. And I just caught it, got a couple blocks and took it back as far as I could.

"That was a big play, but we had a lot of big plays that helped us win that game."

His unselfish attitude - and big plays - have become contagious in a Lakeview locker room that has come a long way since its woeful start. Pavlansky said the seniors never lost confidence and stay dedicated. Pishotti and the rest of the seniors could have given up hope after losses to Hubbard, Struthers and Howland. Instead, they chose a different path.

"I knew that we needed to come together," Pishotti said. "We needed to be closer as a team, and if we came together and we kept working hard every day, then we would put ourselves in the best position to win."

Their drive and constant focus spilled over to the rest of the team, Pavlansky said. The team camaraderie coupled with talent across the board led to the Bulldogs' run.

"This whole senior class has been tremendous since day one," Pavlansky said. "Through summer camp and two-a-days, they didn't blink. They haven't blinked. They have high expectations, and (Pishotti) is an example of if you work hard, there are going to be opportunities in front of you."