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TAMPA — After one of its most significant wins in recent memory, the team that engages in yoga once a week put its breathing techniques into practice with 33 ticks to go Friday night.
Which is to say, the Lakewood Spartans took a collective deep one as Jesuit lined up for a 32-yard field-goal try.
Once they exhaled, the Spartans were playoff-bound.
Senior Shaquill Griffin’s block of Rhett Waldron’s kick sealed the Spartans’ 20-17 triumph, squelching a furious Tigers rally and putting the Spartans (7-0, 6-0) in the Class 5A postseason. Lakewood hosts undefeated Robinson for the District 8 title next week.
“I’m at a loss for words right now,” said senior wideout Marquez Valdes, the key cog (eight catches, 98 yards, two TDs) in a West Coast-style Lakewood passing attack that gave the hosts fits. “It’s so big.”
Griffin’s block capped a volatile final period in which the Spartans momentarily appeared to wrap things up. Tracy Johnson’s 4-yard pass over the middle to Valdes capped a 19-play, 86-yard drive, giving Lakewood a 20-10 lead with 5:53 to play.
Prolonging the drive: a Jesuit roughing-the-passer penalty on third and 18 inside the Spartans’ 30. Johnson went 5-for-7 the rest of the drive, with no pass covering more than 12 yards.
“I think we just had to make some adjustments,” Spartans coach Cory Moore said. “They were taking away the deep ball so we took the short ball. … The guys did a phenomenal job. It wasn’t about stats or whatever and the guys played together. Whatever worked, we had to keep on using it.”
Jesuit (5-3, 5-2), stymied by four turnovers, immediately responded. Junior quarterback Vincent Testaverde, the son of the former Heisman-winning quarterback making his first start, found Stefano Farina behind Lakewood’s secondary for a 45-yard completion.
One Lakewood unsportsmanlike conduct whistle and one play later, Testaverde found senior Travis Johnson, who has committed to the elder Testaverde’s alma mater, for a 14-yard touchdown.
Jesuit, which got four sacks from USF commit Brad Smith, forced Lakewood to punt after four plays on its next possession. On third and 10, Testaverde (4-for-10, 106 yards, one TD, one INT) found Johnson for 33 yards to the Lakewood 18. A false-start whistle on third down forced coach James Harrell to opt for the field goal.
That’s when Griffin got a block from brother Shaquem and senior Ryan Cooper to nudge into a crease and get his hand on Waldron’s kick.
“I think we responded,” Harrell said. “They made a play and we didn’t. I’m extremely proud of the guys and the way they played and fought back. Basically we contained that high-powered offense pretty good.”