ST. PETERSBURG — Two of the biggest plays in Lakewood's 24-14 win over Pinellas Park came from one of its smallest players. Senior Troy'von Johnson, all 5 feet, 8 inches and 165 pounds, threw a second-half touchdown and sealed the game with an 85-yard interception return.
Johnson wasn't even the starting quarterback. But coach Cory Moore put him in on second and 7 from the Pinellas Park 41-yard line midway through the fourth quarter trailing 14-9. Moore figured his top playmaker would come though.
"My mind was going back to the players I've had before," Moore said. "The Bernard Reedys, the Ryan Davises. If went back and did something differently, I'd give those guys the ball more. So I'm not going to let Troy'von go without getting the ball. When he leaves the field, he leaves on "E.' "
On the play, Johnson scrambled left and looked as if he would run. But he saw Khalid Davis open near the 30-yard line and lofted a pass his way.
"I wanted to pass," Johnson said. "At the last minute I saw Khalid. He was naked out there."
Davis didn't know how open he was. When he turned up field he ran untouched into the left corner of the end zone to give the Spartans a 16-14 lead.
"Usually, Troy'von sees me but he has guys in his face and can't throw it," Davis said. "This time it was clear. Then I just made a cut and only had one man to beat."
Then with just over three minutes remaining and Pinellas Park (4-2) driving, Johnson put the game away. Patriots quarterback Brandon Copolla tried to hit Malique Gary on the right sideline, but the pass was short and Johnson pounced. Once he made the interception, he had nothing but blockers and grass to the end zone.
"We were one underthrown pass away from taking the lead," Pinellas Park coach Kenny Crawford said. "He was wide open. But it's okay. Brandon gave it everything he had."
Lakewood (5-1) led 9-7 at halftime on a safety and a 25-yard touchdown run by quarterback Greg Spann. Copolla converted a third and goal from the 20 late in the third when he hit Ethan Blanchard in the corner of the end zone to give the Patriots a two-point lead.
That's when Johnson and Lakewood's defense took over to win the game.
"Honestly, when we beat Lehigh (21-13) I thought then that the guys knew they could beat good teams," Moore said. "Our defense is our strength and that showed. But now our running game is getting better. The confidence is getting higher."