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ST. PETERSBURG — If the preseason is any indication, Countryside is in for some good things this season while Lakewood has a lot of work to do. The Cougars, behind first-year senior quarterback Christian Strong, ran and threw their way past the Spartans in a 35-7 win Friday night.
Countryside scored on three of its first four possessions and added a punt block for a touchdown in a game that was never close. Strong completed 8 of 13 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown. The Cougars added 157 yards rushing from eight running backs.
“We’ll look at the little things we need to get better at,” Countryside coach Jared Davis said. “I was very pleased that we were able to run the ball. We were able to throw the ball when we needed to. Those things were pretty good.”
Lakewood struggled to run or pass. Starting quarterback Tracy Johnson completed only 11 of 24 passes for 89 yards and no touchdowns. He played only one series in the second half before leaving to have his shoulder wrapped.
“I’m fine,” Johnson said. “It hurt all week. I’ll be able to play next week (against Seminole).”
Lakewood fumbled on its fourth play from scrimmage. Countryside took over on the Spartans’ 45 and drove nine plays for a touchdown, capped by a 1-yard run by Ryan Yates.
One possession later, Strong hooked up with A.J. Sattinger for a 31-yard touchdown pass down the middle of the field. That was followed by an 18-yard run by Marreio Taylor on a double reverse to make it 21-0. And just to make the Spartans’ first half even worse, Countryside’s Shyzzam Shackelford blocked a punt and scored from 16 yards that made it 28-0 at halftime.
“That was really fun,” Strong said. “The first drive was a little shaky, but we went down and scored. After that we played really well. There is some good chemistry on this team.”
The lone bright spot for Lakewood came in the third quarter when second-string quarterback Jocqui Ellison hooked up with Marquez Valdes on a 55-yard touchdown pass.
Late in the fourth quarter, Countryside ended the scoring when Robby Hicks connected with Jack Ryan on a 25-yard touchdown.
“That was a good game for us, but we can get better,” senior defensive end Mike Love said. “I got two sacks, which was okay. I want to get four a game this season so I’ve got to get better.”
Despite the lopsided score, Lakewood coach Cory Moore managed to find a silver lining.
“This was a good test for us,” Moore said. “It gives us some data to look at. Now we know what we need to work on. I told the guys not to throw in the towel just because you didn’t have success in the classic. The score may say 35-7, but that doesn’t mean anything.”