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Lakewood's Cornelius likes Gators' effort in loss to Colleton, looks for improvement

By DENNIS BRUNSON dennis@theitem.com
Posted 8/26/19

Starting his third season as the football head coach at Lakewood High School on Friday, Larry Cornelius suffered his first loss in a season opener for the Gators. LHS put itself in an early hole and came up just short, falling to Colleton County …

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Lakewood's Cornelius likes Gators' effort in loss to Colleton, looks for improvement

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Starting his third season as the football head coach at Lakewood High School on Friday, Larry Cornelius suffered his first loss in a season opener for the Gators. LHS put itself in an early hole and came up just short, falling to Colleton County 20-19 at J. Frank Baker Stadium.Despite the disappointing loss, Cornelius believes his team has the potential to have a good season. It just has to make the necessary improvements.

"As far as effort goes, I couldn't be more happy with my players," Cornelius said. "We played really hard. We just had some first-game issues that we've got to correct.

"We made several mental mistakes and physical mistakes," he added. "The mistakes that we made though, we can clean up."

Lakewood put itself in a hole from the beginning when Taron Wilson failed to handle the opening kickoff and Colleton County recovered at the Gator 28-yard line. On third down and eight yards to go, Cougars quarterback Edwardian Stansel hit wide receiver Trakell Murray with a short pass in the left flat. Murray cut back across the field and raced to the end zone to make it 7-0 with 10:58 still remaining in the first quarter.

LHS managed to pick up three first downs on its first down, one of them coming on a 42-yard run by running back James Wright. Lakewood had a first down at the Colleton 11, but quarterback Cody Windham was intercepted and it was returned to the Cougar 42.

On its first offensive play, Murray took a handoff and went 58 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-0 with 4:50 left in the first quarter.

"Our defense was put in a bad position early in the game," Cornelius said. "We lose the ball on the opening kickoff and then we had an interception -- that was really a dropped ball -- and that set them up in great field position.

"We made some mistakes on defense, but not as many as we did on offense."

Cornelius pointed to missed blocks and dropped passes being the biggest issues for his offense.

"We had eight dropped passes for between 100 and 150 yards," he said. "If we make those catches, it's a big difference."

Cornelius praised the team's running game. The Gators picked up 187 yards on 34 carries. James Wright led the way with 77 yards on nine carries, including a 42-yard run and a 5-yard touchdown run. Jeffrey Lawson ran for 41 yards on 10 carries, including a 9-yard score at 8:21 remaining in the third quarter. Lakewood missed the extra point, leaving the score at 14-13. The game was delayed immediately after that on a 1-hour lightning delay.

"I thought our running backs did a tremendous job," Cornelius said. Windham also rushed for 42 yards on nine carries, while completing 16 of 27 passes for 149 yards,and one touchdown.

Colleton County pushed the lead to 20-13 early in the fourth quarter, but had its extra point attempt blocked. Windham's touchdown came on a 12-yard completion to Tilmon Vaughn with 1:35 left in the game to make it 20-19. The Gators were flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct and had to try the 2-point conversion from the CC 18. It was unsuccessful.

Vaughn had three catches for 65 yards.

"We just have to work hard to eliminate those mistakes in practice this week,"

Cornelius said.Lakewood plays host to Lake City on Friday. Lake City lost to Wilson 43-6 in its season opener on Friday.