ST. JOHN | When you have enough injured starters out to field a Class A roster and your muddy playing surface is more suited for barnyard critters, every snap is going to be traumatic.
That was the case for short-handed Lake Central in Friday night's 5A Sectional 1 opener with Portage.
Among the missing for L.C. was Purdue-bound David Yancey (knee), who had rushed for 1,341 yards this season and was considered by many as the region's top player. He's out 6-8 weeks.
That opened for the door for 5-foot-10, 230-pound senior running back Riley Arvanitis, a mohawk-wearing battering ram who chewed up yardage like a tiller.
"I knew if I was called on, I'd do what I do," Arvanitis said after his 35 carries for 206 yards and one touchdown powered L.C. past Portage, 16-0.
"I like this kind of pressure, this do-or-die, and I don't want it to end. I love these guys and don't want this train to stop."
L.C. led 7-0 at the half, which basically featured Arvanitis matching Portage's Rashaan Coleman carry for carry and nothing else offensively.
Quarterback Alec Olund had a 7-yard TD run for the hosts in the opening quarter and was later intercepted in the endzone by Coleman in the final seconds before halftime.
"I just run straight and if there's a hole, I hit it," said Arvanitis, who gained 40 pounds in the offseason and is nearly impossible for one tackler to bring down. "That's been my thing since I added the weight."
L.C. (8-2), seeking its fifth sectional title and first since 1999, hosts Crown Point next Friday.
"It wasn't pretty but the objective now is getting to the next week," L.C. coach Brett St. Germain said. "We've had our share of injuries but our kids are playing with a lot of grit. This is a good group.
"When our kids have the mindset they're going to out-tough and out-hustle people, that's when we seem to play really well."
Like Friday night, when its defense came in allowing 13.8 points per game and held Portage (3-7) to 63 total yards.