PREP FOOTBALL

Gators brace for big region test against 5-1 Red Foxes

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First-year Lakewood High School football head coach Larry Cornelius fancies himself as a high school football historian. So while he is a newcomer to coaching in South Carolina, he didn't need anyone to tell him about who the Gators will be facing today.

"I've prided myself on being a historian of high school football in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, so I know about the history of Hartsville football," Cornelius said. "They're a great program. I know the success they have running the ball in their (Wing-T) offense."

LHS will be playing host to the Red Foxes today at 7:30 p.m. at J. Frank Baker Stadium. Lakewood will be coming off a tough loss, while HHS will come into the game following an exhilarating victory.

The Gators opened their Region VI-4A schedule with a 14-12 road loss to Lugoff-Elgin. It was their fifth straight loss after snapping a 13-game losing streak with two straight victories to open the season.

Hartsville, which is ranked third among 4A schools in the S.C. Media Prep Football Poll, defeated defending 2A state champion Abbeville 28-21 last Friday at Newberry College's Setzer Field. The Red Foxes are 5-1 and will be playing their region opener.

Cornelius said his team was hurting over the loss to L-E because it easily could have won the game. The Gators had a 41-yard field goal blocked on the last play of the game.

"We went over there and competed, and where we are in our program, our goal is to be competitive every week," Cornelius said. "We had 375 yards of total offense, 297 on the ground. But we had four turnovers, two of them in the red zone.

"We could have won the game, so there were some tears after the game. There was disappointment and I'm happy for that. That means they care."

Quarterback Malik Richardson had a huge game against Lugoff-Elgin. He rushed for 166 yards and a touchdown 24 carries. He has 565 yards and seven touchdowns on 91 carries.

He's completed 69 of 128 passes for 652 yards and two TDs against six interceptions.

Cornelius is impressed with what he's seen of the Red Foxes.

"They continue to get better and better," Cornelius. "They're young, they play hard, they hit hard, they run hard. This year they're throwing the ball more than they normally do."