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The Lakewood High School football team hopes Friday's season opener against Colleton County is less eventful than last season's matchup between the two teams. Last year, bad weather forced the game to be moved to Saturday and played at Sumter's Memorial Stadium. The Gators won that game 35-19.
This year, it's poor weather leading up to the game that's causing problems for Lakewood and head coach Larry Cornelius.
"With the weather this week, we've only had 20 minutes on the field in the last two days," Cornelius said on Wednesday. "Obviously not being able to participate in the (Sumter Sertoma Football Jamboree on Friday (because of a thunderstorm) is a problem], when you're trying to clean things up in that last scrimmage, and we didn't get that opportunity. You can do reps all day in practice, but you can't simulate a game in practice."
The Gators were led by senior quarterback Malik Richardson last year. Richardson scored three rushing touchdowns against Colleton County, including touchdown runs of 53 and 32 yards.
This year, the quarterback duties fall to senior Cody Windham, but Cornelius has also installed a new under-center package featuring the triple-option that should make the Lakewood offense more dynamic and unpredictable.
"One of the reasons why we may go under center sometimes is because we have a pretty big offensive line," said Cornelius. "We
average a little over 300 pounds up front. Also, we don't have a lot of depth at quarterback, so we're going to take an athlete such as James Wright and put him at quarterback and run the triple-option."
The new offensive package should make it more difficult for opposing coaches to gameplan for the Gators. "It puts a lot of pressure on defensive coordinators because they have to practice both the spread and a 3-back personnel in just four days worth of practice," said Cornelius. "So that's something we very well could go to on Friday night, but it's really dependent on what Colleton County is giving us on defense."
Colleton County enters the season thinner in the trenches, but with plenty of skill players and athletes capable of breaking big plays. Cornelius believes his big offensive line will be key in coming away with a victory.
"We have to control the box, we have to control up front," said Cornelius. "That's really our focus. Control the front and everything else will come."
Lakewood's offensive line is led by four seniors in Kyliek Baxter, Stanley Boatright, Darcy Anderson and Nathan Suggs. Suggs serves as an offensive line play guru for the rest of the linemen.
"[Suggs] has the smartest football IQ up front. That's one of the reasons why he plays center. He knows everyone's blocking technique on every given play, and the kid has a photographic memory."
It's not just Suggs though. Every member of the offensive line, including junior Logan Browning and Baxter who has already received interest from NCAA Division I programs, has shown flashes of brilliance. "I'm very high on our offensive line. With the offensive line that we have, if we're firing on all cylinders, we can just go with one-on-one blocking," said Cornelius. "We don't have to do any double teams. We feel like our guys are going to be better than their guys each and every game."
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