Sunday, February 18, 2018
Sports

Column: Moore steering Lakewood in right direction

BUSHNELL

Cory Moore wasn't really sure what to say, so he said wow.

And then he laughed.

More wows. More laughter.

Lakewood is headed to the Class 5A state semifinals, and the head coach could barely believe it.

After a three-year stretch in which the Spartans had some of the best teams in school history, with rosters stocked with Division I talent, and yet fell short in every big game they played, Lakewood finally delivered Friday night in a 27-21 region final win over previously undefeated South Sumter.

Quarterback Ryan Davis delivered, with a virtuoso performance, running and passing with precision and getting up after big hit after big hit.

Athlete Joc Ellison delivered, his 67-yard catch-and-run probably saving the Spartans' season in the third quarter after Lakewood fell behind for the first time.

Aaron Graham, Brujoun Bonner, and Chris Jackson delivered, all with interceptions, Jackson's sealing the victory with 100 seconds left.

And guess who else delivered? Cory Moore, that's who.

He stuck to what worked. For that, he deserves credit.

Last year, with 2:41 remaining and his team leading a second-round playoff game 19-14 over Robinson, Moore decided to go for it on fourth and 1 at midfield, hoping to seal the win.

But the Spartans were stopped. Robinson drove and scored the winning touchdown with 14 seconds left, and Moore took the heat.

So he deserves praise for the two fourth-down calls he made Friday.

First, he changed his mind on a fourth-and-2 from the 3. Lakewood lined up for a field goal, and after a South Sumter timeout, Moore sent his offense back out there, and Davis forced his way to a first down and one play later, the winning touchdown.

Then leading 27-21 with 2:03 remaining, Lakewood was looking at a fourth-and-3 from midfield. Almost the exact position the Spartans were in last year.

"The guys said they wanted to go for it," Moore said. "I said Robinson. Robinson."

Moore went with the less sexy choice, and Ellison, who is not a punter, rolled a 41-yarder deep into South Sumter territory, leaving the Raiders with 88 yards to travel to win the game.

Against Lakewood's defense, especially on this night, that was impossible.

Cory Moore got his signature win, and Lakewood may have shed its image as a big-game failure. There were times Friday that made us wonder if it would ever happen.

A 14-0 first-half lead disappeared during a stretch of play that had come to define the Spartans. South Sumter scored twice on drives aided by all-too-familiar penalties — too many men on the field, roughing the passer, jumping offsides on fourth down.

A 71-yard touchdown on a fake punt in the third quarter, giving South Sumter its first lead, just seemed to reinforce those games from the past, the losses after implosions against Jefferson and Pasco and Jesuit and Robinson.

We can stop talking about that now, because Ellison took a little pass and went 67 yards to tie the game, and Graham picked off a shovel pass, and Moore went for it on fourth down and Davis was not going to be stopped, and Jordan Edwards had a big sack and Jackson had an interception and the Gatorade buckets were emptied onto the backs of defensive coordinator Ronald Graham and the head coach.

Afterward, there really was just one thing left to say. Wow.

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