Coming off an extended three week break thanks to the effects from Hurricane Florence, Lakewood continued their football season with another win over the Rebels of North Duplin High School.
Following last year’s 20-14 loss to North Duplin, Lakewood looked to exact revenge. The Leopards would receive the ball first. After a 55-yard rushing gain on the first play from scrimmage, Lakewood’s drive stalled in the red zone where they went for the field goal but just missed.
North Duplin later converted a short fourth down to keep their opening drive alive which led to the Rebels driving and a blank scoreboard to end the first quarter of action.
The fourth down magic wasn’t sustained for the Rebels, when North Duplin quarterback Gage Outlaw’s pass fell harmlessly to the ground on another fourth down.
Taking over at their own 45-yard line, Lakewood’s Jahdon Smith ran for two first downs to set Lakewood up in the red zone once again. After another big first down run by Shemar Tucker, Lakewood was just three yards away from the first score of the game. Indeed, the Leopards punched it in as quarterback Hayden Carter called his own number to put Lakewood on top 7-0 following the successful PAT.
Now trailing by seven, North Duplin went three & out immediately following Lakewood’s score, but the Leopards would fumble and the Rebels recovered and returned it to the Lakewood 35-yard line.
With newfound momentum, North Duplin rode Kijah Blow to the end zone for the first Rebels score of the game. The PAT was converted as the game was now tied at 7-7 in the second quarter.
Another Leopards turnover with 1:03 left in the first half gave North Duplin an opportunity to take a lead. Lakewood’s defense, however, did its job to bring the half to a close with a tied ball game, 7-7.
After the break, North Duplin would get first crack at breaking the 7-7 tie. It was a squandered opportunity, though, as Lakewood forced the Rebels to punt – a punt that only went for two yards.
With great field position, the Lakewood used power running back Smith to run it in from seven yards out to give the home-standing Leopards a 14-7 lead with 8:56 remaining in the third quarter.
On the ensuing drive, a 20 yard run from North Duplin’s Blow gave the rebels a first down at Lakewood’s 49-yard line, but on fourth down and four to go, Lakewood stuffed the Rebels to force a turnover on downs.
Holding a 14-7 lead, the Leopards utilized Smith and Christian Logan, running for a combined 41-yards on the drive to get the Leopards down to North Duplin’s 3-yard line. Elijah Davis scored the rushing touchdown with 22.4 seconds left in the third quarter to extend the lead to 21-7.
A promising start to the Rebels first drive of the fourth quarter was dented by a fumble that was scooped up by Lakewood. Fumbles seemed to be everywhere as the Leopards then fumbled it right back.
Blow then went 25-yards on first down. With the clock ticking, North Duplin was in the red zone looking to trim the 14-point deficit. No dice for the Rebels, though, as they couldn’t convert a fourth down, handing it back to Lakewood’s offense with only 5:29 left in the game.
Only needing to run the clock, Lakewood left only 1:59 remaining for North Duplin to come up with something magical to overcome a 21-7 Leopard lead. Javon Owens, though, sealed Lakewood’s win, when he picked off a pass attempt from Outlaw.
“I’d like to give the kicking game a lot of credit tonight. When North Duplin can only start at their own 20 every drive, it’s a big advantage for us,” said Lakewood head coach Barrett Sloan. “Defensively, we played great in the second half. Finally, offensively we have got to hang on to the ball. Hats off to North Duplin, though, they are a tough team, well coached and very physical,” Sloan concluded.
The stat sheet showed how good Lakewood was defensively.
Davis and Juwuan Johnson each recorded one sack, while Johnson had six tackles and a fumble recovery. Jaylin Torres earned 10 tackles and Javon Owens had one interception and three tackles.
The Leopards improve to 5-0 with the victory over North Duplin. They are back in action on Friday night, travelling to take on Rosewood, who clock in at 4-1 on the year. This game will mark Lakewood’s second appearance in the Dubose Strapping Game of the Week. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
Reach Sports Editor Daron Barefoot at [email protected]