MILLBURY - Lack of motivation certainly is not an issue with the Lake High football team.
The Flyers, whose season nearly didn't materialize because of a lack of school funding, have plenty to play for.
Their passion has been apparent after two weeks of play as the Flyers are 2-0 heading into tonight's non-league game at Rossford.
They're hoping to make it 3-0.
"We're thankful to be where we are - to go from possibly not being anywhere to be 2-0 heading into our third game," Lake coach Mike Kubuske said. "The kids have worked hard."
The Flyers are still not quite where they would like to be overall before next week's start of the Suburban Lakes League campaign. Lake missed a week's worth of preseason practice because of the financial troubles that almost canceled the season, as well as all other extracurricular activities.
And the Flyers' coach is an advocate of "practice makes perfect."
Still, the Flyers have beaten Swanton 42-13 and Northwood 30-19.
"We're not where we want to be with formations and complexities on offense, but we're still a good running team," Kubuske said. "We haven't added all the extra things and gadget plays yet."
Basic Flyer football means a double-wing offense and a 4-3 defense.
"This is the seventh year running our offense and defense, so the kids who have been in the program since they were in the seventh grade haven't had to take much time to learn new things," Kubuske said. "We've had stability in the program."
That stability was seriously tested a few weeks ago by Lake's financial struggles before a last-minute decision by the school board approved funding. The team could have unraveled while things were being worked out, but only three players, most notably brothers Marshall and Matt Severhoff, transferred from Lake before it became certain the Flyers would play. Marshall Severhoff, who was an All-SLL linebacker a year ago, and Matt, who would have been a starting offensive lineman for the Flyers, transferred to SLL rival Eastwood.
Senior running back Brad Lewis, in his first season as a starter, considered a transfer from Lake. The 5-11, 184-pounder, who rushed for 177 yards against Swanton and 180 against Northwood, said he narrowed his choices to Genoa, Northwood and Clay before the school board approved funding extracurricular activities.
"Most of us were not going to not play football this year," said Lewis, who has become a surprising leader on offense. "Most of us love to play football and at least half of us were going to transfer."
Cody McPherson, a 6-2, 165-pound junior, has been a solid contributor on defense. He intercepted a pass in the win over Swanton and has become a leader in his first season as a starter. The free safety admits he considered Woodmore, Northwood and Genoa as options.
"It was going to be a challenge that I would have taken, but I'm glad I didn't have to," he said.
Perhaps no one is more thankful that Lewis, McPherson and their teammates didn't bolt the school than Kubuske, in his seventh season overseeing the Flyers. A mass exodus could have meant the death of the program.
"We're very fortunate we didn't have more kids leave and decided to stay and play," Kubuske said. "I think that speaks much for the program itself."
The Flyers, who finished 6-4 overall and 5-2 in SLL play last year, have come together. With 18 returning lettermen, Lake's mission has been clear even during the preseason adversity - the team comes first.
"It's definitely a great start for what we want to do - win the league and go to the playoffs," McPherson said.
"And it was tough to think that the season we knew could be great could almost be taken away from us."
Kubuske believes the off-the-field adversity has helped the Flyers on the field. He's noticed a greater level of focus and energy from the Flyers since they began practicing.
"The kids are thankful to be out there, so they appreciate it more," Kubuske said. "They're giving us more effort and have a desire to win to get better and move forward."
Rossford (1-1), which will hold a ceremony to rename Bulldogs Stadium after former coaches Don Jackson and Tom Ferguson, presents the next test for the Flyers.
"That's a tough one because they'll challenge us with the spread offense they run," Kubuske said.
"It's a non-traditional scheme and it'll be a good test of our conditioning."
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