The Lakewood Leopards varsity football team played host to the North Duplin Rebels under the bright lights on Friday night, and it ended up being an absolute thriller.
The Rebels jumped on the board first with a touchdown by their quarterback William Archer. Archer used the read-option offense to his advantage all night. He exploited the Leopards’ unfamliarity with the read-option and ran for a whopping 109 yards on 20 rushes, and scored both of North Duplin’s touchdowns.
However, Lakewood would not go down without a fight. The Leopards found a lot of success through the air Friday night, and their only touchdown came on a beautiful pass from Lakewood quarterback Zach Tanner to wide receiver William Peete for a 65-yard score down the right sideline with 1:20 left in the first half. The extra point was no good, and the Rebels maintained a lead, however only by one point, 7-6. Peete has now scored touchdowns in back-to-back games.
North Duplin was unable to score before the half ended, and held a 7-6 lead at halftime.
The Rebels would score on their first drive after halftime with a touchdown plunge up the middle by Archer, but the extra point was missed. North Duplin had built up a solid 13-6 lead.
The game was back-and-forth from there on out, with each defense making stops, but the Rebels made the better stops when it counted.
With Lakewood driving deep into North Duplin territory, Tanner looked toward the end zone for a touchdown that, with a successful extra point, would tie the game up with a little over a minute to go in the third quarter. But the stingy Rebel defense picked him off and ended what had looked like a very successful drive before the interception.
North Duplin wanted to milk the clock from there on out, but the Leopards had other plans in mind. After forcing a punt, Lakewood got the ball back at their own 39-yard line with 9:10 remaining in the fourth quarter. Tanner started the drive off with a bang, scrambling over to the left sideline and the sprinting all the way to the Rebels’ 36-yard line. With North Duplin on their heels, Lakewood continued to use a fast-paced offensive attack to push forward and maintain the momentum. But, to no avail. After charging all the way to the North Duplin 12-yard line, the Leopards fumbled the ball away at the 4-yard line with 5:46 left, ending a drive that likely would have resulted in a touchdown.
With the wind out of their sails, Lakewood was unable to create a stop until there was 1:42 left in the ballgame, much to the displeasure of the Lakewood coaches. Despite this little time, the Leopards put their two minute offense to use, marching all the way to the 27-yard line, only to be intercepted by the Rebels again. With 31 seconds remaining and out of timeouts, North Duplin knelt on the ball and ended Lakewood’s comeback bid. With the clock at triple zeros, the scoreboard read 13-6 in the Rebels favor.
Lakewood head coach James Lewis was extremely frustrated and upset after the loss, saying his team can improve “everywhere.”
“North Duplin was better prepared than we were tonight, and that’s on me,” he said, “They executed better and played harder.”
Despite the loss, Lewis has faith that his team can get back up on their feet after a tough loss and be prepared for next Friday’s game.
North Duplin head coach Hugh Martin, on the other hand, praised his team, especially his defense, for how they played Friday night.
“Defensively, we really ran to the ball well,” he stated. Despite the loss, he understands that Tanner got away from them a couple of times on quarterback scrambles, something he says his team will be looking to improve on stopping this coming week.
Defensively for the Leopards, Luke Brewer had a solid game as usual, leading the game with eight tackles to go along with one fumble recovery. His teammate Tristan Holmes stacked the stat sheet with eight tackles as well. Dylan Ivey wound up with seven tackles, and Tristan Hawks came in with six tackles.
Offensively for Lakewood, Tanner led the way with 47 yards rushing on eight carries, as well as 147 yards passing on 14 attempts with six completions, one touchdown and two interceptions. Dre Oates had 17 yards on three carries, as well as one catch for six yards, and Keshon Bailey complemented Oates with 13 yards on three carries. On the receiving end, William Peete led the Leopards with 65 yards on one catch and one touchdown, Zakai Washington had one catch for 44 yards, Keshon Bailey snagged one pass for 17 yards, and Johnnie Owens grabbed one pass for eight yards.
Offensively for North Duplin, Archer had 14 yards passing on four attempts, with two of those being completions. Archer also led the Rebels in rushing with 109 yards on 20 carries, while Kenny Sheppard followed him up with 68 yards on 15 carries, and Colby Bass had 57 yards on 13 rushes.
The North Duplin Rebels are riding a three-game winning streak and are now 3-3 overall and 1-0 in the conference following the win. They will host rival James Kenan on Friday.
The Lakewood Leopards fall to 4-3 overall and 1-1 in the Carolina Conference and will travel to Rosewood for a matchup on Friday at 7 p.m.