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Lakemen Win Thriller Over Portville to Advance to Class C Title Game

Leading into their Friday night playoff showdown with Portville, the last time the Wilson Lakemen played in a title game at New Era Field was 1990.

It took some late game heroics, but that drought is officially over.

A 66-yard touchdown pass from Bobby Atlas to Julian Andreola with under two minutes to play gave the Lakemen a 26-21 victory over Portville in the Section VI Class C semifinals at Wilson High School.

After Drew Westmorland ran the opening kickoff back to give Wilson a 7-0 lead, two second quarter Jayden Lassiter scores for Portville gave the Panthers a 14-7 adavantage.

A late touchdown strike from Atlas to Declan Faery left things knotted at 14 a piece at halftime, but despite the shaky at times first half, Wilson coach William Atlas was still confident.

“I walked in [the locker room] and said ‘guys, we are in an awesome spot’ … we had just played the worst half of football we played all year, and it’s tied,” Atlas said. “The last thing I said was ‘this is a fun affair, you guys are in the driver seat, let’s go win a football game,’ and they did.”

For a majority of the second half, however, the Lakemen (9-0) found themselves trailing, and with just over two minutes to play and down 21-20, they would have to play off a miracle to keep their season alive.

Luckily, they had one in them.

Atlas dropped back to pass and delivered a perfect, in-stride ball to a wide open Andreola, and he did the rest to give Wilson a 26-21 advantage with 1:22 to play.

“I realized they started to shade over to Declan [Faery]’s side with a safety, so I knew that the middle would be wide open for a crossing route for Julian,” said Atlas, who finished with 160 passing yards and two touchdowns.

In what was a play that will go down in Lakemen football lore, the connection it featured didn’t originate there.

“[Bobby] lives right down the street from me. That pass right there, we’ve been connecting on that in his backyard since we were like thirteen, fourteen,” Andreola said. “This is a really special win.”

Wilson’s trademark defense stepped up big on the final Portville drive, as Faery came down with the game-securing interception to book the Lakemen a ticket to New Era Field.

While it was a heartbreaker for the Panthers (7-2), coach Josh Brooks could not have been happier with his team. Other than their loss to Southwestern, this game was the only time they’d trailed all season.

“No one picked us to go 6-1, no one picked us to have a home playoff game, no one picked us to win a playoff game,” Brooks said. “We took them right down to the wire … I’m just so proud of those guys and our whole team.”

Next up for Wilson is the Class C title game against fellow undefeated Southwestern at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 9 at New Era Field. It won’t be an easy task for the Lakemen, but they’ll be playing with an entire community behind them.

“I’m super excited for the community. One for the guys, but two for the community,” William Atlas said. “It’s been a long, long time coming, and I’m glad to see these guys were able to do it.”

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