MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
EAST LAKE — Each week, Tyler Lane runs with conviction, with a lowered head and shifty feet, churning toward another 100-yard game.
An old-fashioned, between-the-tackles runner, Lane has become the main cog in East Lake’s high-powered offense, using his burst to get through the hole and running with enough power to carry defenders.
Known as a workhorse since becoming a starter two years ago, Lane has taken his game to another level this season, posting a raft of career highs, including rushing touchdowns (14) and games in which he exceeded 100 yards (eight).
Six of those 100-yard games have come during a six-game win streak in which the Eagles broke out of a first-half slump to emerge as the Class 8A, District 7 champion and win a playoff game for the first time since 2003.
Lane confesses to not knowing much about his statistics.
“I had no idea I had that many 100-yard games in a row,” he said.
Lane, however, is well aware of where East Lake’s win streak stands.
“I know we’ve won six straight,” Lane said. “Really, that’s all that matters. I don’t really need the ball in my hands. I’m a team player. As long as we get the W, I’m okay.”
Lane is arguably one of the greatest running backs in East Lake history, yet it has taken him most of the season to figure out that still is an important part of the game plan.
East Lake has a diverse offense. Pete DiNovo is a strong-armed quarterback. Stephen Buric is a sure-handed tight end. Artavis Scott is a dynamic wideout.
Lane thought the Eagles would throw the ball in all sorts of patterns and forget about the running game.
“At the beginning of the season I didn’t think I would get as many carries,” Lane said. “I really didn’t know how much the ball would be in my hands.”
In the first half of the season, Lane averaged 13 carries and the Eagles stumbled to a 2-3 start. Since then, he has averaged 18 carries and has scored in each of those contests.
Lane’s increased workload has helped create balance, as his ability to run the ball has opened up the passing game. East Lake is now averaging as many yards rushing (180.7) as passing (194.3).
“We’ve always strived for balance and wanted to get the ball in Tyler’s hands as much as possible,” coach Bob Hudson said. “A lot of it just depends on the game and the situation.”
Lane also helps East Lake play ball control. In the past two seasons, he has more than 300 carries and has fumbled just three times.
“Tyler is very quick and has great vision,” Hudson said. “He’s not the biggest running back, but he has such a competitive spirit and knows how to protect the ball. That’s big for us.”
Friday, Lane will try to grind toward another 100-yard game and help the Eagles sustain drives against rival Palm Harbor University.
“I’m so focused right now,” Lane said. “I’m happy with the way we’re playing right now.”