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  • Writer's picturetgardner1167

Lions Look to Come Roaring Back

Javon Ford has never been more excited and grateful to be playing football.

After taking the Class AA North division by storm his sophomore year as a dual threat QB, Ford was looking forward leading the Lockport Lions to big things in 2016. However, that all changed last summer when Ford went to a USA Football camp and tore his ACL.

It was a huge loss for the Lions and then rookie head coach Matt Vermette.

“Losing him was devastating,” Vermette said.

Even though he couldn’t play Ford was still with the team. He attended team bonding events, every practice and was on the sideline for every game during a difficult 1-8 season for the Lions.

Ford admitted it was one of the toughest ordeals he’s ever been through and now he’s ecstatic to be back.

“It was really hard because I’ve never experienced something like that before,” Ford said. “I’m excited to be back. Football is my main sport and I love playing with these guys.”

Now that Ford is back Vermette feels the Lions have real threat at QB that will help them get back to throwing the football.

“It’s made the offseason easier knowing what we can do,” Vermette said. “He knows the offense like the back of his hand. It’s like having a coach in the huddle.”

Senior Issac Drake believes that Ford himself brings a whole different dimension to the offense.

“We’re a dual team again,” Drake said. “We can run, pass and defenses also have to worry about Javon running too.”

Another big reason for the disappointing 2016 season was the lack of team work they had according to junior Niko Haney

“We learned that we need to work together,” Haney said. “Everyone one wanted to do their own thing.”

In 2016, the strength of the Lions was their running game led by Xavier Barber. Barber, now a senior, is a strong runner in between the tackles. He is also big at inside linebacker for the Lions.

With Ford back, Lockport plans on having a strong air attack in 2017. Haney and Drake are expected to be big contributors to that attack at the receiver position.

The Lions lose strong athletes in Tavon Chambers and Shota Sprunger to graduation.

Overall Vermette is excited with the talent coming back this year.

“We have a couple of studs coming up from the JV. Our slot receivers have done well over the offseason. I think that offensively we will be better,” Vermette said. “Our Achilles heel last year was that we couldn’t stop the run. Now we have some players who tackle well in space.”

Lockport will have some unfamiliar opponents in 2017. Thanks to some changes in class alignments, there are only 11 teams in Class AA and the north and south divisions have been scrapped.

This year the Lions will be facing some BPS teams in Hutch Tech and Bennett and formerly south division foes in Lancaster and Orchard Park.

Despite the strong schedule, the Lions have high expectations for 2017.

“We think with the new configuration that we can get one of those top two seeds and be in a position to play two home playoff games,” Vermette said. “Those are high expectations, but we want to get a home playoff game and compete to get into the semifinals.”

Lockport opens the 2017 season at Niagara Wheatfield on Saturday, September 2nd at 2 p.m.

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