Week 4’s “Game of the Week” certainly lived up to the hype when the Midway Raiders made the short trip down Highway 242 to take on the 3-0 Lakewood Leopards. A close game decided in the fourth quarter would await both of the win-hungry squads. In the end, it was the Leopards clawing just enough past the Raiders to keep their unbeaten streak alive, winning 35-32.
Lakewood won the opening toss but deferred to Midway who took the ball first. Midway quarterback Carson Calcutt wiggled for the first down conversion on 2nd & 3, but the Raiders drive stalled thereafter at their own 34.
Punting it away, the Lakewood punt returner muffed the punt, which gave the ball right back to the Raiders offense. With excellent field position, starting at Lakewood’s 38-yard line, Calcutt threw a 30-yard bomb to Carsse Lucas on third and nine to take the early 6-0 advantage.
Special teams wasn’t very kind to the Leopards early on in the game as on the ensuing kickoff the lakewood returner would again fumble the ball, only to have Midway scoop it up and put the Raiders offense right back in business. Facing third and five, Calcutt ran for the first down, along with extra 15-yards, to put the Raiders in the red zone. Dante Blue would punch it in for the Raiders to cap off the drive.
With Midway already leading 12-0, the Leopards offense finally touched the ball for the first time to set up their first drive. Starting on their own 35-yard line, Lakewood’s Shemar Tucker busted open and ran for 30-yads to set the Leopards up in Midway terrority for the first time. Lakewood entered the red zone and cashed it in for the 5-yard rushing touchdown, courtesy of Jahdon Smith.
With the lead cut in half, Midway was helped by several Lakewood penalties on the ensuing drive, which put them at the deep in Leopards territory at the 27-yard line. On fourth down and with four to go, Midway wouldn’t have do any work to move the chains as Lakewood jumped offside to hand the Raiders a fresh set of downs. The penalty would prove costly as Midway scored its 3rd touchdown of the game and after the PAT was successful, the Raiders held a 19-7 lead.
With around eight minutes left in the first half, Midway successfully attempted an onside kick to hand Calcutt and the Midway offense the ball right back. Lakewood held tight and prevented another fourth down conversion, giving The Leopards possession at midfield. Lakewood ran the ball effectively on this drive, which was highlighted by Tucker’s 30-yard burst to the 3-yard line and Smith’s second touchdown of the game.
A score of 19-14 would be Midway’s lead at the halftime break.
Starting at Midway’s 40-yard line to start the second half, Smith seemingly carried the ball the entire drive, eventually bringing the Leopards to the 3-yard line for first and goal. A fumbled snap and an unsuccessful fourth down try prevented Lakewood from taking its first lead of the night.
Midway’s opening drive of the second half went nowhere as they resorted to punting it away quickly. Out near the 50-yard line, Smith and Tucker once again powered the Leopards deep into Midway terrority. Lakewood rode the back of Smith into the endzone for their first lead of the game just as the 4th quarter was getting underway. The 2-pt conversion succeeded, giving Lakewood their first lead of the game at 22-19.
Right after the Lakewood score, Midway’s Blue, reignited the Midway crowd as he returned the kickoff 99-yards all the way to the house, giving the Raiders the lead back.
With nine minutes left, Lakewood opened up shop in Midway terrority. Another 30-yard run from Smith brought Lakewood down to the 20-yard line. After a personal foul on Midway, the ball was placed at the 5-yard line where Smith ran for another touchdown and the lead.
See-sawing back and forth, this time with Lakewood out in front at 29-25, Midway got another good return from the kickoff returner, who ran it to the Leopards 39-yard line. Some power running from Midway brought the Raiders to the end zone when Blue would take it from 7-yards out for the score. The PAT was successful, making it 32-29.
Again facing a deficit, Lakewood answered.
Smith ran it to the Midway 10-yard line where QB Hayden Carter handed it off to Tucker who scored the go ahead touchdown. The PAT was unsuccessful as Lakewood held the 35-32 lead with 3:16 left in regulation.
Time now ticking away, Midway’s Deantae Byrd would gain 20-yards on the handoff but an offensive facemask penalty would erase the big gain. Midway converted on fourth down to keep the game alive, but with just over a minute left, Lakewood’s defense clamped down and Midway turned it over on downs to slam the door shut. The leopards, now in victory formation, had won a hard fought battle, 35-32, as the Lakewood crowd roared in excitement.
The stat sheet showed Jahdon Smith had 30 carries for 203 yards. Shemar Tucker recorded nine touches for 87 yards. On defense, Smith had 6 tackles, Javon Owens 5 tackles, and Elijah Davis had 3 tackles with one for a loss.
“It’s not Coach Sloan against Midway, its Lakewood’s 11 versus Midway’s 11. I didn’t want to be no bigger than what this game is”, said Barrett Sloan, Lakewood’s head coach, reminiscing on what it felt like to play his old team. “I couldn’t be more proud as an offensive play caller. We got a big victory against a county rival. Hats off to Midway, Coach Barnes has an excellent program over at Mdway and Carson Calcutt, what a player, he’s a good kid.”, he concluded.
“It was a hard fought ball game. On defense and special teams we had a few mistakes but our offense came in pretty strong and picked up our defense which helped us secure the victory,” said Lakewood’s stud, Smith.
Over on the Midway side, Midway head coach Cory Barnes talked comfortingly to his team, who was visibly emotional after the tough loss. He told them that he is proud of their fight and loves the emotion that they show for the game. He also said he loves them and instructed them to immediately put this game behind them and turn their focus to Hobbton.
“Our emotions are all over the place,” he stated. “We were up, we were down, we take the kick off back. Everything was going well,” Barnes continued, speaking of the fourth quarter back-and-forth action.
Barnes also spoke highly of Lakewood’s Smith.
“That fullback over there is a heck of a player. I mean, he was huge in them beating us.”
“Early in the game there were a lot of things going our way. Unfortunately, in the second half some things don’t go our way. We bounced back. You know, that’s football,” Barnes continued.
Barnes noted that Midway did miss three extra-point attempts that were costly but countered by saying that he can’t fault the special teams unit when they return a big kickoff return for a score.
“We’re a team when we win and we’re a team when we don’t. There’s still some things we have to figure out but we put this one to rest this weekend and go straight to Hobbton,” Barnes concluded.
Offensive leaders for Midway were Deante Byrd with eight carries for 49 yards. Carsse Lucas had two catches for 43 yards and Carson Calcutt completed nine catches for 89 yards. On defense, Cameron Calcutt led Midway with 11 tackles.
With the loss, the Raiders now stand at 2-2 overall. They will be back at home on Friday when they host long-time nemesis Hobbton. It’s youth night that night at Midway. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
The Leopards are also back in action next Friday against the visiting Hawks from North Lenior High School. Game time is 7 p.m.