Tyler Saffran gets it done on both sides of the ball

J. Patrick Eaken

Lake senior Tyler Saffran can play just about anywhere on the gridiron, and he proved it this year.

Saffran is the Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press Defensive Player of the Year, but he was also runner-up for Offensive POY behind Northwood quarterback Jay Moten.

On defense from his free safety position, Saffran had 26 solo tackles, 46 assists, two tackles for a loss, but what coaches noticed the most was his five pass break-ups and six interceptions.

On offense, he was the team’s quarterback, but Lake coach Josh Andrews decided to nominate Saffran for running back honors. To put up the kind of numbers Saffran put up is extraordinary for any quarterback, who can get sacks counted into his rushing yardage. He is an Associated Press third team All-Ohio running back.

“He had 163 attempts for 1,288 yards, and that is 7.9 yards per carry and he’s our quarterback,” Andrews said. “We had an interesting take on our power spread offense that we ran. Last year, his completion percentage was 37 and then this year it was 52.3. So he threw for almost 900 yards and last year he threw for just a little over 600. 

“The great thing about Tyler if you were to ask him why that happened, he would say it was the other 10 people he played with. That’s the type of kid that he is. But there is no one who is going to outwork him, from his junior to senior year, every year, with the amount of time that he puts in with speed work and flexibility work, and in the weight room and doing all those things to physically and mentally prepare himself for the year, which was second to none.”

You can credit Lake’s line for Saffran’s success running the football, but there is someone else to thank, too.

“I’ll tell you one of the biggest aspects of why Tyler ran the ball so well was because of our receivers,” Andrews said. “They are very selfless in blocking. (Senior) Jaxon Delventhal, our running back, had a phenomenal year blocking on the edge, isolating and doing that type of thing. Being 155 pounds, you would not view him as an isolation back, and he just was very selfless and did that quite a bit, and he rushed for almost 700 yards this season, too.”

There was another Flyer who had six interceptions — junior defensive back Richie Hayward. Hayward also excelled on both sides of the ball, catching 32 passes for 443 yards.

“That is good especially because against Ashland Crestview (35-14 Lake win), we ran the ball 52 times, so to have that many receptions and yards and we’re not out there chucking it on every down,” Andrews said.

Then you look at tackles, and senior interior linebacker Zach Lombardo has numbers that will blow you away. Lombardo was in on 137 tackles, including 19 solo and 100 assists, plus he had four sacks, 14 tackles for a loss, an interception and a fumble recovery.

“Defensively, I can’t say enough about the job coach (Dave) Rymers, our defensive coordinator, does, and coach (Greg) Wilker. The kids buy into what we do and I’m one of those coaches that if a kid is credited for a tackle, he makes a tackle. He doesn’t jump on a pile or anything else,” Andrews said.

“We get done with the end of the year and Zach Lombardo had over 130 tackles. That’s a good season. In the eight years that I’ve been here, I’ve never seen this — he had 22 tackles in our playoff game, and that’s just a ton of tackles,” Andrews continued.

“He moved from outside linebacker last year to inside linebacker, and then he really found his home there reading and being comfortable at inside linebacker. Offensively, toward the end of the year we gave him a little bit of a role as that fullback type kid (152 yards rushing, 5.1 yards per carry, five TDs), and that was coming from where he actually played guard for us last year, so that was nice.”

Lake strong safety Toran Schroyer followed with 104 tackles, including seven for a loss, an interception and two pass break-ups.

“Toran Schroyer is a kid that we are going to miss. He really flies under the radar,” Andrews said. “I don’t think that anyone else thinks they need to prepare for him. They look at the scouting report and they see 5-7, 150, and he’s just overlooked. Being at that strong safety and having over 100 tackles and in some of our sets, he actually was playing the outside linebacker. He did a phenomenal job and he shied away from nobody, being the size that he is. He’s a very football smart kid who is always going to be in the right position, so he is going to be missed as well.”

Defensive end Conner Moore will return next year after garnering 102 tackles, including nine sacks, 15 for a loss and causing a fumble.

“Conner Moore, being as dominant as he was this year, I look for great things coming from him next year just to be very dominant on both sides of the ball,” Andrews said. “We had some kids step up on, like (junior) Jesse Ash — it was his senior year. He played center for us, Austin Greene his senior year played guard for us, so we had some kids just step up and did their job. 

Lake finished the season 5-5 overall and 4-3 in the Northern Buckeye Conference. Two of the losses came to Division V regional finalists Eastwood (31-24) and Otsego (27-13), and Andrews is proud of what his conference achieved this year in the playoffs.

“That was nice. Both programs — Eastwood has been a dominant program for years and Otsego, they just do things the right way,” Andrews said. “Hats off to their coaching staff that they really get their kids to play. I think they were very complimentary after the game with some of the things that we do. I could not happier than for them to represent the NBC in the final regional game.”

However, the Flyers played the Eagles and Knights close to the vest, and had an opportunity to win each of those games.

“In the Eastwood game we were right there. It was one of those things,” Andrews said. “Hats off to Eastwood — they are very good at what they do, and we tried to find a way to establish our new identity this year with what we were doing offensively and defensively. It was just a flat-out physical football game. 

“We had a couple big plays, including a 90-yard pass that was just a blown coverage kind of deal. From there it was less than a minute when we went down and scored and had an opportunity for an onside kick but didn’t get it,” Andrews continued. “It was definitely one of those that I felt that we also played very well against a team that was a finalist at state (2017 state runners-up). 

“We had Otsego 13-13 at halftime, and they are a (state) final four team. So, there were definitely some high points and some things that we let slip away during the season. But sometimes you have those assignments, and they are high school kids, and sometimes those mistakes are made.”

Other Lake wins were over Fostoria 62-0, Elmwood 30-13, Genoa 28-7 and Woodmore 37-0. 

“It was a good season for us. We did a lot of good things,” Andrews said. “Obviously, there were definitely some contests that we would have liked to go the other way. Overall, it was a good season.”

Andrews says it was not until after a season opening five-touchdown loss to Rossford that his team was able to figure out what kind of team they were.
“It was one of those things where we came out in the Rossford game and kind of got smacked around a little bit, 35-0, and then found our identity on what we were going to do,” Andrews said. “Our offensive line did a nice job and we brought a couple other coaches in for us this year, in addition to what we had, and we really focused. We had four offensive line coaches who just focused on our offensive line because that is important.”
However, there remains one game he would like to have back — a 26-20 Division V playoff loss to Apple Creek Waynedale.
“That was one of those games, and I told the kids, that we were disappointed in that,” Andrews said. “We picked a very bad time to play not very good football. That’s not to take anything away from them. They came in and had a nice game plan.
“But, with our kids and their resiliency to never give up — we were down 26 at halftime and then we had an opportunity there. Our drive stalled out at the end to go ahead and tie it. We put ourselves in that position. It’s tough to win football games against quality football teams when you’re down 26 at half.”









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