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Lakewood enters bye week before region with big win

By TIM LEIBLE
tim@theitem.com
Posted 9/24/19

The Lakewood High School football team wanted to make a statement when it traveled to Hemingway on Friday. The Gators were fresh off a blowout loss to Sumter and knew that a touch matchup with Orangeburg-Wilkinson in their Region IV-4A opener was in …

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Lakewood enters bye week before region with big win

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The Lakewood High School football team wanted to make a statement when it traveled to Hemingway on Friday. The Gators were fresh off a blowout loss to Sumter and knew that a touch matchup with Orangeburg-Wilkinson in their Region IV-4A opener was in coming after a bye week.

LHS head coach Larry Cornelius said he challenged his coaches to get six offensive touchdowns and a shutout on defense, and they nearly succeeded in their 44-7 victory. The Gators finished with three passing touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns, but allowed Hemingway a touchdown in the third quarter. Still, Cornelius said the win was exactly what his team needed.

"Getting a win is extremely important and not just a win, but a big win," Cornelius said. "We were on our mark. We wanted to make sure we had a convincing victory, as we should. When you have a bigger school (Lakewood is 4A, Hemingway 1A) playing a smaller school and where Hemingway is at with their program right now, that's huge to go into your bye week."

While the offense will get a lot of attention with 272 rushing yards and another 119 through the air, Cornelius said it was his defense that really set the tone all night long. The Gators forced three turnovers with a pair of interceptions and a fumble recovery against the Tigers, who fell to 0-4 on the season. They also added two points on a safety. The defense opened the door for the Lakewood offense all night long.

"The defense did a great job. I believe the first first down we gave up was halfway through the third quarter," said Cornelius. "The defense put the offense in great position and forced three turnovers and a safety."

Offensively, Jeffery Lawson set the tone with 75 yards rushing and two scores on just six carries. Javontae Lewis rushed 11 times for 102 yards, while Kori Green chipped in with 36 yards and a score on five carries. Cody Windham completed 7 of his 12 passes for 119 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 51 yards and had one pass intercepted.

The bye week comes at a great time for the 2-3 Gators. With hot weather expected all week, the Gators can focus heavily on film work as they prepare to host O-W. The Gators enter that game looking for their first region win under Cornelius, who is in his third season. They are are trying to get their first region win since the 2015 season.

"All of our focus is on O-W right now," said the Lakewood head coach. "There are certain things we have to correct from Friday night, but we've already broken down O-W film. We're already geared for O-W, now we just have to practice the reps and hopefully execute in two weeks."

Cornelius knows Lakewood has a tough challenge for its first two region games, but he and the Gators are laser-focused on getting off to a good start in the region.

"Our first two region games, on paper, are probably the toughest. That's not taking anything from the other teams in the region, but I have a lot of respect for O-W," said Cornelius. "It's going to be a smash-mouth type football game. And, of course, (defending region champion) A.C. Flora turned it around last year, had great region play and it looks like they're doing the same thing this year."

"We don't wanna look too far ahead. We want to put all of our eggs in against O-W and try to get off to the right start."