High School Sports

5 takeaways from No. 8 Bethel’s upset over No. 3 Lakes in pivotal 3A PCL matchup

No. 8 Bethel pulled off a 35-30 upset over No. 3 Lakes in a pivotal Class 3A PCL matchup in Lakewood on Friday night. Here are five takeaways from the Braves’ big win.

STATEMENT WIN

This was an important win for a program that has as much talent as almost any team in the state, but hasn’t quite been able to put it all together. Until now.

Bethel opened the season with a 32-27 loss to Kennedy Catholic, a top-five 4A team, and a 27-14 loss to O’Dea, which could very well wind up being the No. 1 team in Class 3A after a stunning win over No. 1 Eastside Catholic on Friday night.

Bethel was in both games until late, but wasn’t able to close them out. In the leadup to Friday night’s game against Lakes, the theme all week in practice from coach Mark Iddins was finishing.

“This is another top-five program,” Iddins said. “You have to win these games if you want to make the deep runs. We’ve always been just one play or one step away. To finish is a huge thing. That’s what we’ve been talking about all week.”

Oregon commit Peter Latu, who caught seven passes for 92 yards and rushed nine times for 35 yards in the win, said the Bethel players know they’ve had the talent.

“We have it,” he said. “We know we have it. We just have to use it as a team. We talk about it every day at practice. We all have the talent. Every other team is going to have talent but there’s only 11 people that can be on the field. So if we use our 11 talents, we’re driving.”

TAKING IT SLOW

With so many teams going high-tempo these days, watching Bethel open the third quarter with a 19 play, 78-yard drive that consumed 9 minutes and 5 seconds felt like a beautiful blast from the past.

Football is a game of rhythm, and keeping a good offense off the field for that long is enough to disrupt that rhythm.

“That was huge,” said Bethel quarterback Kekoa Visperas, who completed 15-of-22 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns. “That set the tone for the rest of the game. We knew that if we got that drive, we have the game sealed.”

While many coaches have abandoned the idea of racking up time of possession, for Bethel, it’s a crucial part of the team’s strategy.

“It’s very important,” Iddins said. “Especially when you’re playing against the better teams and the better defenses, it’s real tough to just air raid all the time. In high school football, you have five or six guys going both ways. So when those guys get tired in the second half, it hurts us. Our goal is to win the game. Our stats may not be off the charts but the only stat that matters is the win. We got that.”

NO PANIC FOR BETHEL AFTER BIG LAKES SECOND QUARTER

The second quarter was all Lakes, as the Lancers outscored Bethel 18-6, scoring three touchdowns, including a blocked punt that was scooped up for a score by Jaydon McMillon. But Bethel didn’t allow things to unravel.

“Facing adversity was big for us,” Iddins said. “We knew they were going to make some plays. We tested ourselves early in the year with some tough games. We had seen it. We knew this was a top-notch team. The first half there, it looked like they were starting to pull away, but we battled back through that adversity.”

Speaking of coming in clutch down the stretch, Visperas looks like a natural leader for the Braves in his first season with Bethel. He completed his last seven passes of the game for 84 yards and two touchdowns, leading the team to the win.

“The minute I walked into the program, they just treated me like family and I knew this was home,” Visperas said. “It wasn’t hard at all. They came in and welcomed me like I was one of them.”

Iddins said Visperas has been a positive presence for the Braves.

“He brings a ton,” Iddins said. “His leadership is great. He’s got a great arm, he’s made some great plays. He’s getting better every week. It allows us to move our best athletes out to receiver. It’s been a huge piece for us.”

RUN STUFFERS

For Bethel to win, the Braves were going to have to stop the run. And that’s exactly what they did, limiting Lakes’ running backs to just 52 yards on 19 carries. Counting sacks, Lakes was held to just 22 net rushing yards on the night.

“They’re a big running team,” said Bethel defensive lineman Mekhi Frink. “They wanted to put that out there and run down our throats and we were just able to shut them down.”

Iddins said the entire defense had a good night.

“It was great,” he said. “We knew we had to stop the run with them and force them to pass the ball. Our guys did a great job and they got after the quarterback. Our (defensive backs), we left them on an island at times and they played great, like they have all year.”

LAKES WILL REGROUP

Lakes will be just fine, though the loss will sting and puts a dent in the Lancers’ league title hopes. But there were plenty of positives to take away from Lakes’ performance, like quarterback Justin Brennan completing 15-of-26 passes for 225 yards and a touchdown. Or Devon Nofoa-Masoe racking up 110 receiving yards on five catches.

And the Lakes’ defensive line played strong, limiting Bethel’s rushing attack to 86 yards on the ground.

There are some things to fix, but plenty to like about this Lakes group going forward.

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