Lakewood preps for new season

By: By Adam Capps -

By Adam Capps

Lakewood’s head coach James Lewis encouraging his team while stretching at practice Wednesday evening. (Adam Capps/Sampson Independent)’s head coach James Lewis encouraging his team while stretching at practice Wednesday evening. (Adam Capps/Sampson Independent)

Lakewood’s head coach James Lewis is entering his 19th year as the head coach of the Leopard football program. Returning a good number of players from last year’s team that reached the Eastern Championship game, Lewis admitted that this team could be one of his best.

“This team can be as good as any team that I have had here at Lakewood,” said Lewis, whose team enters the season ranked 12th in the state in 1A, in the’s Baker’s Dozen Poll.

“Some of them started working right after we lost to Plymouth last season, and the guys are talking about it. They are ready to get out there and play, and hopefully it serves as nothing but motivation for them and our team this season,” said Lewis.

The Leopards are set to return six players on offense and six players on defense, and return some key playmakers on both sides of the ball.

“Well we have Dillion Kinlock back at running back,” said Lewis, “and Zach Tanner is returning at the quarterback spot. Those are both great places to have experience at. As for the other side of the ball, we are returning Ray Hayes, who has really been big for us in the past on the defensive line, and Malik Rogers, who plays both offensive and defensive line for us.”

Lakewood is also expecting a big impact from newcomers. “I’m not sure who individually yet, but we are getting a good crop of players from last year’s JV team that went undefeated coming up. They will be expected to contribute immediately, to make a positive impact for our team,” said Lewis.

Although it is not set in stone, the Leopards are expecting a roster of around 80. They are planning to run the pistol offense, and a 4-4 defense, so not much is expected to change in that sense.

Look for Lakewood’s toughest game of the year to be with preseason number one, James Kenan. The two are in the same conference, and should be a good game this season, as the Leopards won’t go down without a fight against the perennial powerhouse.

Lewis also noted that games against in-county rivals would not be easy either, as they never are.

The Leopards are set to go to Clinton next Tuesday for a scrimmage game against another team with large expectations this season. It will be a good test for each team before they play in the Pigskin Jamboree on Aug. 14.

Lakewood is set to open their season at home on Aug. 21 against the Union Spartans.