Leopards keep top ranking with win over Rebels
by Ruthie Pope Sports Writer
The Leopards remain at the top of the 1A Carolina Conference after handing North Duplin a sound 33-7 thumping on Friday night on H.E. Grubbs Field.
Lakewood’s defense, plus the team’s ability to capitalize on Rebel mistakes, were key factors in the Leopard victory.
North Duplin was on Lakewood’s 25 yard line when Sam Koser came up with a fumble recovery early in the first quarter to turn the drive around and set the tone for the night.
A pass to Roman King from close to mid-field put Lakewood on the Rebel’s 8 yard line. Quarterback J.J. Tanner took it into the end zone from there.
Wesley Sessoms split the uprights to make the score 0-7 with 8 minutes left in the first quarter.
The Rebels got the ball back, but only for 4 downs, as Lakewood’s defensive line wouldn’t allow their runners any room.
Rushing by Haywood Mack was a big part of the Leopard’s next score. He forced his way down field for 27 yards to the 15 yard line before he was brought down. Two downs later, he dove into the end zone for the second TD of the night. Once again Sessoms put up the point after and the score moved to 0-14.
Despite two separate threats inside the Lakewood red zone, the Leopard defense held strong to bring up fourth downs. The Leopards got down to N.D.’s 16 yard line with under a minute to go, but 3 passes into the arms of Lakewood receivers inside the end zone would bounce out as incomplete.
The score remained at 0-14 to end the first half.
With about 2 minutes off the clock in the 3rd quarter, it was Jabriel Cooper this time who recovered a Rebel fumble on North Duplin’s 16 yard line and turned the drive around. Koser ran the ball in for Lakewood’s 3rd touchdown of the night. Sessoms’ point after was good and the score was 0-21.
An interception late in the 3rd quarter led to North Duplin’s only touchdown. A Rebel grabbed the pass at about their own 40 yard line and ran it back to the Leopard 30. From there, Rebel J.P. Payton was able to cross the goal line. The point after by Antonio Jaimes was good and the score moved to 7-21.
On the next drive the Leopards showed just how capable their offense can be.
Leopard Shyhiem Rich forced his way down field for 27 yards. An incredible catch by Jabriel Cooper, who managed to hold on to the ball despite being slammed into the ground by a Rebel, put the Leopards on the 25 yard line. A keeper moved Lakewood up 4 more yards.
Another passing play, but this time the receiver was Roman Leach, put the Leopards inches from the end zone. Koser bulldozed his way across the line to give his team 6 more points.
A bad snap created a 2-point conversion situation, but it failed. With 11 minutes left in the ball game, the score was 7-27.
The final score of the game came about with about 4 minutes left on the scoreboard. Roman Leach started it off with a drive to the 12 yard line. Mack moved it up to the 8 and then a quick bullet to Seth Herwy put the Leopards back into the end zone.
Another bad snap prevented the point after and the final score was 7-33.
Leopard head coach James Lewis mentioned the very rough play during the game and said he was proud of his players for the way they handled themselves.
“This was a very physical game. I’m proud of the way my kids handled those adversarial situations,” Coach Lewis said, and then added on a brighter note, “And I’m proud that we are in the lead of the new Carolina Conference. It’s right where we want to be.”
In reference to just how physical the game was, one North Duplin player, Emiliano Mora, was wheeled off the field with an injured leg or ankle, and taken by ambulance to a hospital to be checked out.
Also Lakewood tackle, Ricky Webb, was pulled out of the game in the second half with an injured arm. Leopard trainer Dave Yarasheski said Webb would be going to the hospital to be checked out as well.
Haywood Mack was the backbone for moving the ball down field with 156 yards on 23 carries. Teammates Roman Leach was 8 for 70 yards; Shyheim Rich, 4 for 16; Koser, 4 for 19 yards; Josh Hall, 1 for 3; and J.J. Tanner, 5 for 27.
Quarterback Tanner had 4 complete passes with 1 interception for 89 yards. Receivers Roman King caught 2 for 65 yards and Cooper, 1 for 27 yards.
Offensive stats for the Rebels showed J.P. Payton with 18 carries for 71 yards; Emiliano Mora, 7 for 63; quarterback James Britt, 1 for 2; and Darren Goodman, 7 for 22.
On defense for the Leopards, Cody Barnett had 8.5 tackles; Trace Faircloth, 6. 5 tackles; Pat Rich, 6 tackles; Koser and Cooper each had , 2 tackles and 1 fumble recovery.
Lakewood’s record moves to 2-0 in the conference. The Leopards will host Rosewood next Friday, which is also their homecoming.
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