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Sumter, Lakewood face off after strong showings in previous games

By DENNIS BRUNSON
dennis@theitem.com
Posted 9/12/19

The last time Lakewood High School played a football game it performed really well, defeating Manning 33-14. The same can be said for Sumter as it rolled to an easy 63-2 win over Sumter School District rival Crestwood 63-2. The only difference is …

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Sumter, Lakewood face off after strong showings in previous games

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The last time Lakewood High School played a football game it performed really well, defeating Manning 33-14. The same can be said for Sumter as it rolled to an easy 63-2 win over Sumter School District rival Crestwood. The only difference is Lakewood played last Saturday, while the Gamecocks haven't played for two weeks due to Hurricane Dorian.The two teams, also Sumter School District rivals, will face off on Friday at Memorial Stadium beginning at 7:30 p.m.

"We played so well (against Crestwood) that you want to get out there and play again," said SHS head coach Mark Barnes, whose team is 2-0 on the season. "Especially after you played a bad game and follow it with a very good game, you just want to keep playing.

"Our guys are just ready to play football," he added. "They're excited to be playing against a Sumter School District team as well."

The Gators come into the game with a 1-2 record following the win over Manning. LHS suffered a 20-19 loss to Colleton County to open the season before falling to Lake City 28-8.

Lakewood head coach Larry Cornelius said his team played with a lot more consistency in the triumph over Manning.

"We played at a higher level for the entirety of the game," Cornelius said. "Now we were nowhere close to perfection; we left three touchdowns out on the field, and we gave up a long touchdown run on the first play. Still, I thought we were very consistent."

With no game of his own, Barnes had a chance to scout the Gators in person. He said he was impressed with what he saw.

"They've improved a lot," Barnes said of Lakewood, which Sumter beat 49-7 last season. "They ran the ball really effectively, and their quarterback did a good job of finding his receivers."

Gator running back Jeffrey Lawson had his second straight 100-yard rushing game, picking up 105 yards and scoring twice on 22 carries as LHS had 394 yards of total offense. James Wright ran for 42 yards and two more touchdowns on 10 carries. Quarterback Cody Windham hit on 9 of 15 passes for 148 yards and a TD.

"We ran the ball more than we did in our first two games," Cornelius said. "You want to be balanced on offense, but when you've got a line that averages 6-(feet-)4(-inches) and over 300 pounds you need to be able to run the ball, and that's what we decided to do. Of course, that changes from game to game."

Sumter had 407 yards of offense against Crestwood, most of that coming in the first half when it led 42-0 at halftime. Tony Dinkins-McCall ran for 120 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries, while Nathan Harris-Waynick picked up 70 yards and two more scores on nine carries.

Dinkins-McCall, who has committed to Georgia Southern as a wide receiver, will be seeing a great deal of time at running back now that Game 1 starter Justice Wells is no longer with the team.

"Tony should be better this week just because he has some more experience at it now," Barnes said. "Nathan is the backup, but he will be playing. When we play him we'll be able to put Tony back out at wide receiver, depending on what we want to do."

Along with Dinkins-McCall, Sumter has North Carolina wide receiver commitment Tylee Craft as well. Quarterback Hayden Vasquez rebounded from a 3-interception game in the Gamecocks' 28-21 season-opening win over Rock Hill by completing 8 of 11 passes for 192 yards and four touchdowns in just one half against Crestwood.

"Offensively, Sumter has a lot of weapons," Cornelius said. "We're going to have to play an A+ game against them. Defensively, we've got to tackle well. We've got to rally to the ball, and make sure we bring them downi when we get our hands on them. If they're breaking tackles it could be a long night for us."