Finishing strong

After tossing pair of pick-6's in first half, Sumter rebounds to roll past Lakewood 49-21


The statistics show that Sumter High School dominated Lakewood in their football game on Friday at Sumter Memorial Stadium’s Freddie Solomon Field.

The Gamecocks had 508 yards of total offense and 25 first downs to just 148 yards of offense and nine first downs for LHS. Even the score dictates that SHS won in fine fashion, a 49-21 victory.

However, it wasn’t as easy as it could have been because of Gators defensive back Travius Epps intercepting two passes from quarterback Zykiem Jackson and returning them for touchdowns in the first half. That made the halftime score 21-14 in favor of Sumter.

“I thought we played a really good game except for the two interceptions for touchdowns,” said Gamecock head coach Mark Barnes, whose team improved to 4-1 on the season while rebounding from a 51-34 loss to Spring Valley. “We know we can’t have that, and that is really unlike Zykiem. He normally doesn’t make mistakes like that.

“The defense played great and the offense did really well except for those two passes. We played outstanding on both sides in the second half.”

SHS was driving on its first possession of the game when Jackson looked for a receiver on a wheel route. The only problem was Epps saw it coming and stepped in front of it, picked it off and took it 56 yards for a touchdown. Placekicker Francisco Gonzalez booted the extra point to make it 7-0 with 8:38 left in the first quarter.

Sumter rallied for a 14-7 lead and was trying to drive for a 2-touchdown lead. However, Jackson threw a pass in the flat that went straight to Epps, who returned it 59 yards for a score to tie the game at 14-14 with 9:52 left in the first half.

“Travius had a great game for us tonight,” said Lakewood head coach Larry Cornelius, whose team is now 2-3 after starting the year with two straight wins. “We’ve had him on both sides of the ball (as a running back), and I told him I wanted him to concentrate on defense. I guess he was mad with me because he scored two touchdowns on defense.

“We played with great effort throughout the game, and we played with them for a half. We knew Sumter had a great defense coming in and they showed that.”

After LHS tied the game, the Gamecocks responded with an 8-play, 70-yard scoring drive that ended with a 7-yard scoring run by running back Jonathan Henry. SHS received the second-half kickoff and went 61 yards in six plays. Henry scored on a 2-yard run with 10:34 still left in the third quarter.

Lakewood responded by driving inside the Sumter 20-yard line before turning the ball over on downs at the 24. The Gamecocks put together a 14-play, 76-yard scoring drive that ended with a 3-yard TD run by running back Da’Jon Butts with 1:35 left in the quarter to make it 35-14.

Butts scored on a 26-yard run and running back Justice Wells on a 25-yard run in the fourth quarter to push the lead to 49-14.

The SHS defense was outstanding throughout the contest. It limited the Gators to 53 yards in the first half, and they had just 80 going into the fourth quarter.

“We just played really well on defense tonight, and we’ve done that all year with the exception of last week,” Barnes said. “They’ve (Lakewood) got some good athletes and we did a good job of defending them.”

Lakewood picked up six of its first downs, 68 yards of its offense and its only offensive touchdown in the fourth quarter.

“I know Sumter had in its second string, but I’m proud of the way we scored in the fourth quarter,” Cornelius said. “That showed that we were still working and showing great effort.”

Sumter rushed for 365 yards and passed for 143. Jackson rushed for 146 yards on 18 carries and completed 16 of 21 passes for the 143 yards. There were many times it appeared Jackson could have tucked the ball and ran, but chose to go through his progressions and look to pass the ball.

“We came into the game wanting to throw the ball,” Barnes said. “We want him not to be so quick to run with the ball because he’s only got so many hits in him. But Zykiem likes to make plays with his feet, but we need to throw the ball too. We’ve got great receivers and they did a good job of catching the ball.”

Butts rushed for 64 yards and three scores while Wells rushed for 81 yards and another score. Wells caught a 9-yard pass from Jackson for Sumter’s other TD.