The Wolfpack popped the Lakewood playoff bubble with a 42-6 win at Whiteville in the 2nd round of the NCHSAA tournament.
As the clock ticked down in the fourth quarter, the Leopard teammates on the sidelines wiped tears, slapped backs, and shook hands as they realized this would be the seniors’ last high school football game.
Lakewood head coach James Lewis, who was named one of the Panther’s Coach of the Week last month, said he was proud of his team and knew they gave 100 percent every game all season.
“This was a good group of boys, especially my seniors. They gave me all they had all year. Most of them have played together a long time, since little league probably, and it’s real emotional for some of them,” he said.
In speaking about the game, Coach Lewis accepted the defeat and stated, “That’s playoff football. The farther you go, the tougher it gets and tonight just wasn’t our night. Whiteville has an outstanding team and they will be hard to beat next week.”
The opening kickoff was an indication of things to come. Wolfpack Mhalik Graham ran the ball back about 40 yards before he was brought down by kicker Griffin Faircloth on Lakewood’s 23 yard line. Three plays later Tyqwann McDougal crossed the goal line to put Whiteville on the board, 7-0, at 9:45 in the first quarter.
Lakewood had a challenge going on in the next drive, but an interception by Aljere Adams stopped it cold. The Leopards held the Wolfpack to 4 downs, but with 2 minutes off the clock, the ball changed hands again on downs.
This time, Whiteville took it into the end zone with 1:48 left on the clock in the first quarter to move the score 14-0.
Another first quarter interception with 1 minute left showing on the scoreboard lead to the Wolfpack’s next score when Nick Powell broke several tackles to race down the sidelines from about 50 yards out. This widen the score to 21-0.
The Leopards moved into the Wolfpack red zone several times, but couldn’t cross the goal line or get that first down to continue the drive until there was about 2 minute left in the game.
The Wolfpack scored 2 more times in the second quarter, at the 5:27 mark and with just 2.5 seconds left on the clock.
Whiteville scored in the third on a 60 yard TD run by Terrin Manning at the 10:16 mark in the third quarter to make the score 42 -0.
The Leopards final drive started at about the 2 minute mark in the fourth with a pass to senior Seth Herwy to put the ball on the Wolfpack 45. Another pass to senior Jabriel Cooper moved it to the 4 yard line. Senior quarterback J.J. Tanner powered across the goal line for the score. The PAK failed and the final score was 42-6.
Stats on the game showed that the Wolfpack managed to shut down the Leopards both on the ground and in the air.
Rushing for Lakewood was Haywood Mack with 46 yards on 15 carries; Deshaun Wilson, 5-28; J.J. Tanner, 3-11; and Roman Leach, 1-2.
In the air, quarterback Tanner had 2 interceptions on 16 attempts and 5 completition for 81 yards. Jabriel Cooper caught 2 for 52 yards; Herwey, 1 for 10; Wilson, 1-13; and senior Austin Tanner, 1 for 6.
Wolfpack offensive stats showed Manning with 132 yards on 11 carries; Nate Powell, 4 for 122; and McDougel, 12-55. Quarterback Dillion Williams completed 2 of 7 passing attempts for 47 yards. Nate Powell caught both passes.
Lakewood defense lost one of their leading tackles late in the first quarter when Cody Barnett came out of the game with a knee injury. Picking up the slack and leading the defense was Trace Faircloth with 8 tackles; Pat Rich, 6 tackles; Sydney Ivey, 5; and Niquan Owens, Logan Brewer, and Dillion Kinlock with 4 tackles each.
Whiteville will face the unbeaten James Kenan Tigers next week in the third round. The Tigers beat Princeton 43-36 to move into the third round.