The Lakewood Leopards took on the Bulldogs of Wallace-Rose Hill Friday night in the third round of the football playoffs, but were pummeled by a score of 35-0, ending the Leopards’ bid for a championship.
Lakewood came into the game with high hopes as they were the number-one seed and were playing before a home crowd. However, the Bulldogs had other ideas, running up the score early as they raced to a shutout, the first of Lakewood’s season. Wallace-Rose Hill was the number-two seed, and fans from both schools knew just how big this game was.
The shutout by the Bulldogs came at the worst possible time for Lakewood, as the Leopards were used to it being the other way around, hammering their previous opponents.
Wallace-Rose Hill got on the board early, scoring on their first two drives with the first touchdown run being a nine-yard sprint by running back Javonte Williams, and the second being a five-yard run by running back Dennis Nichols. The score was 14-0 after one quarter.
The Bulldogs were not done, benefitting from a stifling defense to give their powerful offense led by talented quarterback Aliza Carter many chances to score. Wallace-Rose Hill made sure to take advantage of these seemingly endless opportunities, scoring two more times, with Williams running it in again and running back Desmond Newkirk getting in on the action with a touchdown run of his own to help his team tally up 28 points before halftime.
Lakewood was simply could not generate enough offense to come back from the deficit. The offense, set to receive the second-half kickoff, flopped even after a solid return to set them up in good field position. The Bulldogs’ defense shut them down time after time.
Despite not being able to generate any offense, the Leopards managed to keep the high-flying Bulldogs out of the end zone in the third quarter, leaving a small ounce of hope for the Leopard faithful that Lakewood could potentially come back from 28 down in the fourth quarter.
However, Wallace-Rose Hill crushed any amount of hope that Lakewood had, scoring on yet another run by Williams, this time a one-yard plunge on fourth down. Williams gassed the Leopards all night as Lakewood struggled to stop their opponent’s dangerous rushing attack. Williams’ score was the last score of the night and effectively ended the game, as the Leopards went into desperation mode and turned the ball over twice from there on out.
A crowd of emotional fans huddled around the Lakewood team after the loss as the coaches and players addressed the season and how much it meant to them. Lakewood quarterback Zach Tanner, who is a leader on the team and a young man who many of the players look up to, spoke directly to the team, thoroughly letting his squad know how much the year had meant to him, and thanking them for all they have taught him throughout his three-year tenure as a starter. Tanner was just one player of many who had to hold back tears as they spoke to the team after the loss.
Despite not making it to the fourth round of the 1AA Championships, James Lewis’ Leopards still tied the school record for most wins in Lakewood history.
Lewis said he knew that his team had a challenge on their hands in the Wallace-Rose Hill Bulldogs, and was happy with how his team played in the second half. Lewis praised his team for how much fun they were to coach.
“They’re just a great group of kids,” he stated.
Lakewood finishes the 2016 season with a 10-4 overall record and 5-1 conference record, all while securing the top seed in the playoffs.
There was a much different vibe, however, on the other side of the field, as Bulldog fans, coaches and players mingled around and celebrated the win as their season lives on. They are now considered by many as the favorites to win the championship after such an impressive win.
Wallace-Rose Hill head coach Joey Price was proud of his team for dominating in all three phases of the game.
“If anybody watched that game, they’d know we did well on offense, defense and special teams,” Price said. His squad improves to 13-1 on the season to go along with a 6-1 conference record. The Bulldogs will square off against the 12-2 Tarboro Vikings next Friday in the regional round of the playoffs.
Offensively for the Lakewood Leopards, Tanner led the way with 41 yards rushing on eight carries, Keshon Bailey came in with 17 yards on seven rushes, and Quamaine Williams had 10 yards on one carry. Tanner also threw for 38 yards on 7-of-17 passing with two interceptions. William Peete snagged two catches for 13 yards, Carsell Bennett had 10 yards on a catch, Bryce Tanner had eight yards on a catch, Camron Sessoms grabbed a pass for five yards, and Shawn Andrews wrapped it up with two yards on a catch.
Offensively for the Wallace-Rose Hill Bulldogs, Newkirk finished with 150 yards on 20 carries with one touchdown, Javonte Williams had 83 yards on 10 carries and three touchdowns, and quarterback Carter amassed 37 yards on eight rushes.
Defensively for the Leopards, Tristan Holmes and Luke Brewer both had 11 tackles, Tristan Hawks had a solid game with 10 tackles and a sack, Dylan Ivey had eight tackles and Akili Underwood added six tackles.