While the final score of Lakewood High School’s varsity football game read 41-18 in favor of Hartsville, Gators head coach Larry Cornelius was disappointed, but not necessarily unhappy.
“We competed,” Cornelius said of his team’s performance in the first half in which it led 12-0 after one quarter and trailed just 13-12 at halftime. “But in the second (half) we came out very flat and they got the upper hand.”
The Gators fell to 2-6 overall, losing their sixth straight contest. They fell to 0-2 in Region VI-4 after dropping a 14-12 decision to Lugoff-Elgin last week.
Hartsville, the No. 3 4A team in the S.C. Media Prep Football Poll, improved to 6-1 in winning its region opener. The Red Foxes were coming off a 28-21 victory over defending 2A state champion.
The Gators received the opening kickoff, but quickly went three downs and out and had to punt. The Red Foxes were on the move but fumbled the football with LHS recovering at its 24-yard line.
Lakewood put together a 10-play, 76-yard scoring drive that end with a strong 20-yard touchdown run from quarterback Malik Richardson. A blocked extra point kept the score at 6-0 lead with 4:14 left in the first quarter.
Hartsville had to punt the football away on its next possession and it pinned the Gators at their 8. However, they went on a long scoring drive that ended with a 5-yard passing touchdown from Richardson to wide-receiver Deandrae Mack. A failed 2-point conversion kept the score at 12-0.
Hartsville responded in the second quarter with a couple of touchdowns. One was, a 12-yard rushing touchdown from running back Collins Bishop and the other was a 16-yard run from running back Tiyon Evans. Hartsville managed to connect on one of its extra points for a 13-12 halftime advantage.
The Red Foxes seemed to come out of the locker rock refocused for the second half as they dominated the third quarter.
Hartsville begin the second half with the ball at its 38. It took Tiyon Evans three carries to go 62 yards and find the end zone to put Hartsville up 20-12 with 10:48 left in the third quarter. Quarterback A.J. Joyner found Evan two more times through the air for scores to give the Red Foxes a 34-12 lead going into the last quarter.
Lakewood saw a glimmer of hope at the beginning of the fourth quarter. On the first play, Richardson found Mack again, this time for a 49-yard touchdown to make it 34-18.
“Our whole goal is to be competitive, and tonight we showed that we could compete with a top five team like Hartsville.”
Hartsville punted the ball away on its next possession. Lakewood was on the mound but saw its drive end when backup quarterback Quentin Hodge was intercepted at the Foxes 8.. Hartsville went on a 92-yard scoring drive that ended with a 3-yard run from running back Donovan Lambert.
The game clock didn’t run down to zero to end the game. With 2:28 remaining, Hodge passed out on the sideline. He was cared for by the EMTs and was transported to Palmetto Health Tuomey. Cornelius said by telephone from the hospital that Hodge was responsive and seemed to be OK.
The game was mutually ended by the head coaches at that point. The Hartsville football team came over to the Lakewood sideline to share a prayer and acts of kindness.
“There are things that are bigger than football,”, Cornelius said immediately after the game, “Hartsville is a class act. I give it up to them.”