Lakewood, ranked 6th in the 1AA standings, brought down No. 3 Louisburg on Friday to advance to round two of the NCHSAA state playoff tournament.
The Leopards never allowed the Warriors to cross the goal line in the second half and brought home the 14-34 upset win.
“We played outstanding. The team came in here focused and ready to play and you can’t ask for more than that,” an elated Lakewood head coach James Lewis said as he made his way to the bus for the 2 hour ride back to Salemburg.
“Our defense played outstanding. Coach Davidson, Coach Bass, and Coach Hall did an outstanding job preparing our defense. That was the key to the game,” he asserted. “I’m happy to come away with this win.”
A 2-yard sneak by Lakewood senior quarterback J.J. Tanner started the scoring for the Leopards. Junior Wesley Sessoms kicked the extra point.
A 4-minute drive by Louisburg tied the score with a 3-yard rush and a PAK.
A Jabriel Cooper reception after the kickoff started Lakewood’s next drive into the red zone. Three first downs later had the Leopards on the five yard line, but a fumble gave the ball back to the Warriors.
Lakewood’s defense held Louisburg to three downs and a short 15 yard punt.
A quick pass across the center put the ball into senior tight end Austin Tanner’s hand and he powered his way into the end zone for a 28 yard TD. Sessoms put the ball through the uprights to move the score to 7-14 at 8:33 in the first quarter.
The determined Warriors spent the next 7 minutes moving the ball into the Leopards’ red zone, even converting 2 4th downs to keep the drive alive. Louisburg crossed the goal line with 1:01 left in the first half.
The second half started with about a 40 yard kickoff return to midfield by Deshuan Wilson, but four downs later Griffin Faircloth punted the ball about 70 yards to Louisburg’s 3 yard line.
Both teams challenged, but couldn’t finish it off with a score the entire 3rd quarter.
Another Cooper reception with 7 minutes left in the game turned the momentum into Lakewood’s direction. He scored from about 20 yards out. A PAK by Sessoms broke the tie and Lakewood finally took the lead, 14-21.
A super sack by tackle Stephen King stopped the Warriors on downs and the Leopards got the ball back at the 24 yard line.
With 4:46 left in the game, senior Haywood Mack plowed through the Warrior line, broke 2 tackles, and crossed the goal line from about 24 yards out. A Sessoms’ kick gave the Leopards a 2 TD lead, with a score of 14-28.
Lakewood wasn’t done yet, though. Taking over on downs again, Leopard Deshaun Wilson got the call, broke free from the line and weaved his way into the end zone from 28 yards out for the final score of the night.
Quarterback Tanner completed 6 of 15 passing attempts for 115 yards in the air, plus one interception.
On the receiving end was Jabriel Cooper with 2 receptions for 52 yards; Haywood Mack, 1 for 23; Tyler Baucom, 1 for 9; and Austin Tanner, 2 for 31 yards.
Mack was the leading rusher with 115 yards on 18 carries. Deshaun went 10 for 69.
On defense, Cody Barnett had an incredible 16 tackles. Trace Faircloth had 9 tackles; Stephen King, 5 tackles and 1 sack; Ethan Blackwell, Ray Hayes, Tra’Shawn Spates, and Deontre’ Newkirk all had 5 tackles each; and Trace Faircloth had 1 fumble recovery.
The Leopards’ record moves to 8-4 and they will face No. 2 Whiteville (9-2) next Friday at Whiteville.
“That’s going to be a tough game,” Coach Lewis added. “But this was a tough one, too. You never know.”