The Leopards tamed the Wildcats 34-6 in front of a standing-room-only Lakewood homecoming crowd Friday night.
This was a night of redemption for the Lakewood varsity after the beating they took last Friday in Duplin County from state-ranked No. 2 James Kenan.
Leopard head coach James Lewis was proud of the way his team bounced back, saying, “They played really good. They were ready to play tonight after getting a bad taste in their mouths from last week. The guys were really focused and wanted to prove they were better than what we showed last week against James Kenan.”
The Leopards were handed their first shutout this season last week from the Tigers and only their second conference loss, making them third in the conference.
This Friday looked like a different Lakewood team. They hit the field ready to score against Hobbton and that’s just what they did on the second play of the game. Quarterback J.J. Tanner handed off to Nikin Henry, who rushed 56 yards for a touchdown after only 48 seconds had ticked off the clock. The extra point kick by David Rivera was good and the Leopards jumped on the scoreboard first with 7 points.
Hobbton was forced to punt on their next two possessions and the Leopards got the ball back with less than two minutes left in the first quarter.
Tanner passed to Damion Bennett, who managed to pin the ball against his helmet and held on to it as it slipped behind his head, and then around to the front, as he raced down the sidelines for 31 yards.
Kelvin Bell ran in for a 9-yard touchdown on the next play. Rivera kicked the extra point to bring the score to 14-0 with 1:02 left in the first quarter.
With 10:26 left in the first half, the Leopard would score again on a long run.
It was 3rd and 5 at the 48=yard line and junior Shyheim Rich broke free and sprinted the 52 yards into the end zone. This made the score 21-0 after Rivera’s extra point kick.
Hobbton refused to give up. The Wildcats marched down the field from their 20-yard line to Lakewood’s 14 on six carries by senior Charles Chestnutt.
Quarterback Eli Escalara handed off to Chestnutt, who passed over the middle to No. 20, Hunter Bordeaux. He was stretched out across the goal line on the ground and the ball apparently touched the ground before he scooped it into his arms and it was called an incomplete pass.
On the next play, Escalara threw an end zone pass that was intercepted by Leopard Haywood Mack to begin Lakewood’s next scoring drive.
With Henry, Bell, and Mack leading the way, the Leopards battled their way to the other end of the field and Tanner sneaked through the line for a fourth first half touch down with 32 seconds left on the clock.
The extra point kick was blocked and the score at intermission was 27-0.
Hobbton came out after the half with a renewed determination to get into the end zone.
The Wildcats forced their way into the Leopard red zone on 4 carries by Chestnutt and a pass to Arell Owens.
With eight minutes left in the third quarter, Escalara passed to Chestnutt, who managed to break two tackles and force his way into the end zone from 11 yards out. The snap was fumbled on the extra point kick, making the score 27-6.
The final score of the night came with 5:14 left in the game on a Leopard scoring drive that started at their own 38-yard line. With key rushing by Henry, Damion Bennett, and Tanner, Lakewood made it to the Wildcat 44 yard line when Tanner passed to Joe Ross Freeman for a 37-yard touchdown run.
A solid extra point kick by sophomore Rivera made the final score 34-6.
Hobbton head coach Jeff Byrd was disappointed in the loss and said he felt like his Wildcats had played better football.
“I think we came out flat. We didn’t come out as focused as we did the last couple of games. Offensively, we moved the ball at times. Defensively, we knew where they were going to be; we just didn’t make the tackles. That touchdown at the half might have hurt a little bit. It would have been 21-7 and we could drive down and make it 21-14, but we didn’t get it. That happens,” he said.
Leading the defense for the Leopards was Trace Faircloth with 10 tackles; Malique Taylor had 8 tackles and 1 fumble recovery; Kevin Murphy and Alexander Melvin each had 4 tackles; and Haywood Mack had 1 tackle plus an interception.
Leading rusher for Lakewood was Henry with 12 carries for 142 yards; Rich, with 2 carries for 57 yards; Damion Bennett with 5-27; Mack, with 4-31; Deshuan Wilson, 3-19; Bell, 2-14; Tanner, 3 - 9.
In passing for the Leopards, Tanner completed 3 of 6 for 89 yards with no interceptions. Bennett caught one for 31 yards, Bell caught one for 21 yards, and Freeman caught one for a 37 yard touchdown.
For the Wildcats, Chestnutt carried the ball 21 times for 120 yards; Rashad Davis was 9 for 49 yards.
Wildcat quarterback Escalara completed 3 out of 7 for 28 yards with 1 interception. Owens caught a 9 yard pass and Chestnutt caught 2 passes for a total of 19 yards.
Next Friday night, Lakewood travels to Pender and Hobbton hosts Wallace for the Wildcat’s senior night.