ATLANTA — Two words best describe Duluth's non-region game against Lakeside-DeKalb — dominant and historic.
The Wildcats reached the first descriptor with a 61-0 rout on Friday night at Adams Stadium by rolling up 547 yards of total offense, led by a big night through the air from Lonnie Ratliff IV (14-23-1, 272 yards, 3 touchdowns) and Rishon Spencer (4-155, 2 TDs) and on the ground from Nyle Ervin (14-256, 3 TDs).
Meanwhile, the defense stifled the host Vikings to minus-22 total yards, including minus-48 on the ground, aided by seven sacks of Lakeside (0-5) quarterback John Roath, and added three defensive scores.
That balanced effort helped bring the second word to the forefront.
The victory by one of the largest margins for Duluth in its history, leaves the Wildcats 5-2 on the season, guaranteeing them of posting at least a .500 regular season for the first time since 2003.
It also keeps them on pace for perhaps their program's first winning season since 1995 and the first postseason berth since 1994, and as head coach Cam Jones pointed out, his team came out Friday looking like a team on a mission to fulfill all those goals, and more.
“Killer instinct is taking advantage of opportunities,” Jones said. “I really challenged (the players) this week as far as our focus, our execution, our energy. I think we were probably a little lackadaisical last week (in a 34-0 win at North Clayton), so I'm very excited about the focus and energy we came out with (Friday) night and got on (Lakeside) early.”
It didn't take long for Duluth to demonstrate that focus and energy, with the Wildcats needing only four snaps and 1:32 off the clock to get on the board.
Spencer finished off the 63-yard drive by taking a pass from Ratliff in the right flat and eluding three would-be Lakeside tacklers to dash for a 21-yard touchdown.
Jaiden Jones then hit Anthony Miller Jr. with a two-point conversion pass to give the Wildcats a quick 8-0 lead with 10:28 still left in the first quarter.
And the Duluth domination continued throughout the first half, with Ratliff racking up 189 yards on 10 completions in the first half, two of which went for scores, including another strike to Spencer for 71 yards, plus a 4-yard flip to Jones on a shovel pass.
Ervin was just as prolific in the opening 24 minutes, rolling up 188 yards on just 10 carries, including a 23-yard TD run.
In fact, the only thing that could stop the Duluth offense in the first half was itself, with a fumble and an interception off a deflection being the only two possessions in which the Wildcats didn't find the end zone.
Meanwhile, the defense was stingy, allowing Lakeside just two first downs, with the first of those not coming until there was just 1:14 left in the half.
The Vikings managed positive yardage on just seven of their 23 offensive plays in the opening half, with the Wildcats keeping Roath under siege throughout, eventually sacking him five times for 26 yards in losses.
And after Ervin TD runs of 19 and 17 yards in the third quarter turned a 29-0 halftime lead into a 41-0 bulge with 2:35 left in the third quarter, the defense decided to get a little offensive in its own right.
Asmar Hasan and Jason Grey came up with scoop and score touchdowns of 34 and 11 yards off Lakeside fumbles within three snaps and 1:15 of each other in the final 2:10 of the third period, and Antonio Cofield added a pick six TD of 44 yards three plays into the fourth quarter to apply the exclamation point.
Duluth's schedule will take a major upgrade in degree of difficulty over the next two weeks against Region 8-AAAAAAA leaders in undefeated and neighborhood rival Norcross and Archer.
However, with his team coming off three straight wins by a combined score of 130-50, Jones knows his team is coming into that gauntlet with a confidence rarely reached in many years, and believes his players will be ready to meet the challenge.
“We've talked about our team mission all year – from our Zoom meetings in the spring – is our goal is to have a winning season because it hasn't happened in a long time,” Jones said. “We talked about making the (state) playoffs. We talked about going as deep as we can at state. We talked about it in that order.
“We're excited about the direction of the program. We want to talk about it a little bit, but we don't want to look too far ahead. We understand the next two weeks are the best two teams we're going to play on our schedule. But we're excited about the challenge. That's opportunity. I've talked with (Meadowcreek coach) Jason Carrera …, and we've talked about, 'Find that signature win for the program.' So really, there's two opportunities in the next two weeks to have one of those imprint wins. We know it's going to be a challenge, but we're really excited about the opportunity.”
DULUTH 61, LAKESIDE-DEKALB 0
Duluth 14 15 25 7 – 61
Lakeside 0 0 0 0 – 0
Duluth: Rishon Spencer 21 pass from Lonnie Ratliff IV (Anthony Miller pass from Jaiden Jones), 10:28
Duluth: Jones 4 pass from Ratliff (pass failed), 5:15
Duluth: Nyle Ervin 23 run (Lawson Strong pass from Jones), 8:01
Duluth: Spencer 71 pass from Ratliff (Nic Doby kick), 5:14
Duluth: Ervin 19 run (kick failed), 6:49
Duluth: Ervin 17 run (kick failed), 2:35
Duluth: Asmar Hasan 34 fumble return (kick failed), 2:10
Duluth: Jason Grey 11 fumble return (Doby kick), 0:55
Duluth: Antonio Cofield 44 INT return (Doby kick), 10:26
First Downs 19 3
Rushes-Yards 22-241 26-(-48)
Passing Yards 316 26
Comp.-Att.-INT 17-28-1 5-13-1
Fumbles-Lost 4-1 3-2
Penalties-Yards 12-80 7-45
Rushing: Duluth – Ervin 14-256, Jordan Gilbert 1-7, Jaylen Lang 1-3, Ratliff 3-(-1), David Jameison 2-(-11), TEAM 1-(-13). Lakeside – Jaren Johnson 4-13, Joshua Soyemi 7-8, John Baria 3-(-2), Chance Broughman 1-(-4), Allen Williams 1-(-6), John Roath 8-(-40).
Passing: Duluth – Ratliff 14-23-1, 272; Jameison 3-5-0, 44. Lakeside – Roath 5-13-1, 26.
Receiving: Duluth – Spencer 4-155, Anthony Miller Jr. 4-69, Jones 3-23, Aadil Desai 1-17, Strong 1-15, Jeremiah Little 1-12, Isiah Young 1-8, Ervin 1-5, River Thompson-Brown 1-2. Lakeside – Boughman 2-14, William Parker 2-11, Jordin Miller 1-1.