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Lakewood continues tough region stretch with trip to Lower Richland

By TIM LEIBLE
tim@theitem.com
Posted 10/18/19

Region play has not been kind to the Lakewood High School football team. The Gators are still searching for their first win in Region IV-4A, and what's made things more difficult is that Lakewood will be playing its third straight game against one …

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Lakewood continues tough region stretch with trip to Lower Richland

Posted

Region play has not been kind to the Lakewood High School football team. The Gators are still searching for their first win in Region IV-4A, and what's made things more difficult is that Lakewood will be playing its third straight game against one of the three teams that are 2-0 in region play so far.

The Gators will be traveling to Hopkins on Friday to face Lower Richland.

The Gators are coming off a 34-14 loss to A.C. Flora last week, but head coach Larry Cornelius saw a lot of positives despite the loss to a team that is ranked fifth in the state among 4A schools in the latest S.C. Prep Media Football Poll.

"Something I did like was that we fought the whole time on both sides of the ball. We didn't give up, and we were able to put two (touchdowns) in in the second half," said Cornelius. "That's what it's about. It's about competing until the very end no matter what the score is."

Cornelius knows his team has been forged by playing their toughest games in three consecutive weeks. After facing Orangeburg-Wilkinson (a 21-7 loss) and Flora in back-to-back weeks, the Gators have already faced some of their stiffest competition.

"We feel like on paper we've played the best two teams in the region and that's not taking anything from the rest of the region," said Cornelius. "Every year LR is going to have athletes, and every time you have athletes and you have team speed you're a dangerous team, but I feel like we have a good game plan on both sides of the ball."

The Gators will be focusing a lot of their attention on LR quarterback Jamison Ganzy Jr. The dual threat QB puts a lot of pressure on defenses with both his arm and his legs, so slowing him down is Lakewood's top priority.

"The quarterback is a dual threat kid. He's extremely quick and loves to scramble, so we have to spy him all night long," said the Lakewood head coach. "Their main receiver (Fred Archie), they like to feed him the ball as much as possible on tunnel screens and double moves over the top. Those are two guys we have to keep our eyes on every single play."

Last week's loss to Flora was a rare game where the Gators struggled to run the football, but Cornelius has seen some great resiliency from his offense this week in practice. That's crucial as Lakewood looks to control the ball against an explosive Lower Richland squad.

"The guys have been working hard," said Cornelius. "The kids come in every day, and we're just trying to keep a good mindset. We're confident, just like every other week, that we can win the game. We're looking to win this game, then the next week, win the next game and so on. I feel confident in my team that we can win every week."

That confidence is crucial because the season is starting to wind down for Lakewood. The Gators are still searching for their first region win with only three regular-season games left on the slate.

Yeah, they are, obviously, but that's the goal, to win the game," said Cornelius on the importance of getting wins late in the season. "I really try not to look past what we're working on this Friday night, we have to win this game, but that's like every other week."