The Lakewood Leopards varsity football team traveled to Red Springs on Military Appreciation Night in hopes of extending their three-game winning streak to four Friday night, but those hopes were crushed as the Red Devils defeated the Leopards 12-7 in what turned out to be a thrilling game.
Lakewood’s high-scoring offense struggled mightily, but their opponent was not much better either. Both teams started off poorly, but the Leopards struck first with a touchdown by their star running back, Carsell Bennett, who wound up with 33 yards on 14 rushes. The extra point was successful, and Lakewood jumped out to a 7-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
However, those would be the only points that they would score all night, as Red Spring’s stout defense shut the Leopards down thereafter. The Red Devils offense took advantage of their defense making stops, answering the Lakewood touchdown on the next drive with a shifty run by Justin Locklear, although the two-point conversion failed. Due to the failed two point conversion, Lakewood still led 7-6 with 3:16 to go in the half.
Red Springs missed a chance to take the lead before half, as they marched all the way down to the Lakewood 15-yard line just before the half. Unfortunately for the Red Devils, a well-thrown ball was unable to be hauled in on what would have easily been a 50-yard touchdown to put Red Springs ahead before half. Despite the miscue, they nearly scored but came up just 15 yards short, unable to put any more points up on the board or take the lead before half.
After halftime, the game remained somewhat even as far as drives go, with each team exchanging blows and punches until Lakewood committed a game-changing miscue. On their own 16-yard line, the ball was snapped over quarterback Zach Tanner’s head and Red Springs recovered with 9:54 left in the ballgame. Tanner attempted to jump on the ball, but was just a fraction too late, and it was instead recovered by the Red Devils.
A hungry Red Springs team took full advantage of the miscue, and scored on the very next play after talented Red Devils running back Eric Graham bulldozed his way to a 3-yard touchdown that put his squad up 12-7 with 9:49 remaining, successfully snatching the lead away from the Leopards, much to the dismay of the many Lakewood faithful that drove the distance to watch their team play. The fake extra point that would have made the score 14-7 in Red Springs’ favor, however, failed after the ball went right through the hands of the intended receiver.
Graham was nearly unstoppable all night, picking his way through the Leopard defense for a solid showing of 105 yards and a touchdown. Graham picked up hard-earned yard after hard-earned yard, shifting his way and visibly frustrating Lakewood. His teammate Justin Locklear finished with 64 yards on 10 carries.
After Graham’s only touchdown of the night, Lakewood was unable to generate enough offense to score to take the lead back, and Red Springs took the ball back on an interception late in the game and ran the clock out, snapping Lakewood’s three-game winning streak.
Lakewood dealt with injuries all night, but fortunately for James Lewis’ team, it appeared that most of the injuries ended up being just cramps, but it still depleted the team badly.
Offensively for Lakewood, Bennett carried the ball 14 times for 33 yards, Dre Oates rushed three times for 26 yards, and Bailey had three totes for 18 yards.
Defensively, Tristen Holmes paved the way for the Leopards with 10 tackles, Jahon Smith and Luke Brewer each posted eight tackles each.
Despite the loss, Lakewood head coach James Lewis praised his defense for their stellar play.
“I thought our defense played outstanding,” he noted, “they kept us in the game.”
Lewis credited Red Springs for having a very stout defense as well, and understood that his offense as a whole needs some work.
“We need to execute better offensively against a good defense,” Lewis said. Although the loss stings for his Lakewood team, Lewis wants to put it behind him and prepare to open up conference play next week.
Meanwhile, Red Springs head coach Ron Cook lauded his team for the effort they gave him throughout the whole game.
“Being really physical up front made the difference,” Cook noted.
Lakewood holds a 3-2 record and will open up conference play with a trip to Spring Creek next Friday. Red Springs improves to 3-1.
Adam Johnson can be reached at 910-590-9095 or [email protected]