The Lakewood Leopards varsity football team took on the Eagles of Rosewood on Thursday night in a game that went down to the wire.
The football game had to be pushed forward to Thursday night instead of Friday due to Hurricane Matthew. On a night that still involved a lot of rain and mist despite the hurricane not even hitting the Carolinas yet, the Leopards pulled out an exciting and exhilarating 29-28 win.
Both teams were scoreless through the first quarter. However, from the second quarter on would be a different story that involved each team exchanging blows and punches. The Eagles got on the board first with 6:44 left in the second quarter with a 27 yard run by speedy running back Tronqull Blue. Rosewood led 7-0.
The Leopards answered on the next drive, thanks to big runs by Lakewood running back KeShon Bailey. Bailey ripped off runs of 12, 19, and 8 yards on the drive. Bailey was filling in for injured Carsell Bennett, who usually starts for the Leopards. Bennett had hurt his ankle. Bailey excelled in his starting role, and tied the game up at seven apiece with 4:15 left in the half. The score was 7-7 at the halfway mark.
The third quarter was much more defensive than offensive, and no team quite found their groove until 2:59 to go in the third quarter, when Rosewood quarterback Cameron Helt found Jack White for a 15-yard touchdown to put his Eagles up 13-7. The extra point was successful, and Rosewood took a 14-7 lead.
However, the Leopards refused to be put away. They climbed back into it early in the fourth quarter with yet another touchdown run by Bailey, this time from four yards out, to tie the game up at 14 all after a successful extra point.
Each team would exchange a touchdown thereafter, with Rosewood grabbing a seven point lead after Helt snuck the ball over the goal line. Yet, Lakewood would answer with a touchdown of their own, however, it was not easy. The Leopards needed to convert on fourth-and-6 to keep their hopes alive, as there were only about three minutes showing on the clock. Lakewood quarterback Zach Tanner found Bryce Tanner streaking over the middle of the field to grab the yardage needed for a first down. Zach Tanner would later run it in to tie it up at 21 with 1:30 remaining.
Lakewood got the ball back again after a stuffing Rosewood and using the timeouts they had, and actually had a chance to win before time expired, but a 39-yard field goal by Chris Torres went wide right, sending the exhilarating game into overtime.
Rosewood got the ball first in overtime, and scored on the second play in overtime to make the score 28-28 after a successful extra point. The Leopards would answer with a Bailey touchdown run, his third of the night.
Lakewood then had their shot at either tying the ball game up with an extra point, or winning the game by riskily attempting a two-point conversion.
Even though there was wind and mist blowing in the faces of his Lakewood team, Lakewood coach James Lewis chose to go for the extra point to send it into double overtime instead of going for the win with a two-point conversion and risking a loss if the conversion failed. With a Lakewood win hanging in thin air, the Leopard sideline held their breath, praying that the extra point would be successful.
Due to a wet ball, the snap was botched. Holder Zach Tanner jumped to his feet, scrambling all over the field with the ball in desperation. With nothing else to do with the ball and unable to run it in on his own, Tanner lobbed the ball into the end zone in hopes that one of his teammates just might catch it. Cameron Bryant was there to do just that. The Lakewood sideline erupted and ran onto the field to congratulate their special teams for coming up with the win in the most dramatic fashion possible. The Leopards won 29-28, all because of a botched snap and lobbed desperation pass toward the end zone.
Lewis was very pleased with his team on how they pulled the win out after losing multiple close games before.
“We won a close game, that was the good thing,” he stated. “We’ve lost three games by a touchdown or less, so it’s good to win a close one.”
Lewis credited his offensive line for opening the holes to help his team run the ball well.
On the other hand, Rosewood head coach Robert Britt said that he was pleased with how his team moved the ball, and said that the Eagles played well defensively. “We moved the ball well, it was just one of those games where both teams kept fighting. Lakewood just happened to make the last play,” he said.
Offensively for the Leopards, Bailey paved the way with 18 carries for 118 yards. Zach Tanner followed with 43 yards on nine carries, and Akili Underwood had 15 yards on two carries. Tanner had seven pass attempts, and four of those were completions, for a total of 64 yards. He tossed the ball to William Peete, who had 30 yards on one catch, Camron Sessoms, who had 14 yards on one catch, and Bryant, who had three yards on one huge game-winning catch.
Defensively, Tristan Holmes led the way for Lakewood with 17 tackles and one sack; Luke Brewer had 13 tackles; Tristan Hawks had 10 tackles; Bryce Tanner had seven tackles and sack, and Underwood had eight tackles.
As for Rosewood, Helt had 13 passing attempts with only one completion for 20 yards, but had 147 yards on the ground on 29 carries. Blue had 135 yards on 25 carries.
With the win, Lakewood improved to 5-3 overall and will play host to James Kenan next Friday, a game that Lewis said will be “tough,” but one that he is looking forward to.
Rosewood falls to 3-5 with the loss and plays at home to North Duplin. Britt stated that North Duplin is coached well and always plays hard, so he understands that the challenge will definitely be there for his Eagles team.
Adam Johnson can be reached at 910-590-9095 and [email protected]