SHORELINE — After a promising start to their season, the Lakewood football team has hit the grinding part of their schedule and are feeling the pains of youth and inexperience.
The boys fell 54-34 at King’s in a Sept. 25 conference game.
“The emphasis this year has been on Three Es — effort and enthusiasm, which we believe will lead to excellence,” said Lakewood coach Dan Teeter. “The past two weeks, both the levels of effort and enthusiasm have not been as high. I believe that there are several factors, such as a number of players that missed practice with illnesses, dealing with our first loss et cetera, but successful teams find a way to keep the expectations high when faced with adversity. We are still learning how to handle this.”
The Cougars bounced back from a King’s touchdown on their initial kickoff return, scoring back-to-back touchdowns for a 14-7 lead, including a 69-yard run by quarterback Justin Lane, his longest ever.
But the team struggled to convert on third and fourth downs, losing possessions while King’s answered with big play after big play. Lakewood drives ended on turnovers, which turned into King’s touchdowns, effectively swinging the score to a 14-point Cougar disadvantage. Defensively, Lakewood was between a rock and a hard place, trying to counter the Knights’ spread offense with man-to-man coverage of the receivers and keeping defenders in the box to stuff quarterback Thomas Vincent, who leads the league in rushing.
Speedy receivers punished Lakewood on this scheme, forcing the Cougars to make adjustments at halftime to avoid giving up the long ball.
Coming out of the half, King’s recovered their own high, short kickoffs, scoring two more touchdowns back to back for a 54-14 lead.
“Obviously, this took plenty of the steam out of our sails and the halftime adjustments did not have as much of an impact since we gave up 14 points without running a single offensive play,” Teeter said.
Lakewood began to battle back, driving the ball on their first possession of the second half. Lane connected with freshman wide receiver Brandon Stott for a 27-yard catch that set up fellow freshman Justin Peterson’s touchdown reception on the next play.
In the fourth quarter, Lakewood cut into their deficit again as Lane passed the ball four yards for a touchdown to running back Christian Melton for a 54-26 score. The sophomore set up the Cougars’ final score when he recovered a King’s fumble, taking it 70 yards to the King’s 25-yard line. On fourth down, with seconds left, Johnston closed those 25 yards on a scoring reception from Lane, his second of the night.
“Our spot in the conference is yet to be determined,” Teeter said. “Obviously starting 0-2 in league play has put us at a disadvantage, but I still believe we can accomplish our goal of a playoff spot if we refocus and give a great effort each and every day in practice. We can not afford to give anything less than our best in any week, in such a competitive league.”
Lane threw to nine different receivers in the game, Stott and Johnston being favorites, combining for 248 yards receiving.
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