TARPON SPRINGS — Lakewood's bus arrived 45 minutes late to take the Spartans to their Class 5A, District 8 game against Tarpon Springs. As the national anthem played, Lakewood players were still stretching and had to cut their warmups short.
Warmups are clearly overrated.
On the second play from scrimmage, Donterio Fowler raced 84 yards for a touchdown and the Spartans were off and running in a 46-21 win over the Spongers on Friday. The victory clinches a district championship for Lakewood (6-2, 4-0) and guarantees a home playoff game in the first round. Tarpon Springs (5-4, 2-1) must win next week against Boca Ciega to clinch the second playoff spot.
"We had about six minutes of warmups and we had to go," Spartans coach Cory Moore said. "It's just our time right now. We've worked out the kinks. We've settled down. The chemistry is there right now."
Lakewood was certainly clicking in the first half. After Fowler's run and a two-point conversion made it 8-0, Fowler struck again on the next possession when he scored from 14 yards out. A Courtney Burge run for two points quickly made it 16-0.
Fowler ended the night with 195 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
"Everybody blocked well, from the offensive line to the receivers," Fowler said. "There were big holes all night. I just had to run through them and then not get caught."
Tarpon Springs appeared as if it would make the game competitive when Montel Johnson scored on a 50-yard run.
But Lakewood came back with a score of its own, this time a 38-yard pass from Ryan Davis to Jocqui Ellison.
Just before halftime, Lakewood scored again. Davis capped an eight-play drive when he ran in from 6 yards out. Ellison scored the two-pointer to make it 32-7. Lakewood made all four of its two-point conversions in the first half.
The Spongers got the ball to start the second half and scored when Michael Ford burst in from 2 yards. Ford led the Spongers with 73 rushing yards on 18 carries.
But the Spartans answered when Fowler went in from 14 yards to make it 40-14 late in the third. Lakewood used mostly second-string players in the fourth quarter.
"We hit them hard right from the beginning," Ellison said. "We got here a little late and they expected us to be a little rusty. But we weren't."
Since losing early in the season to Countryside and Largo, Lakewood has started playing much better. Fowler believes it has taken a while for the team to get on the same page.
"We're starting to click," Fowler said. "At the start of the season we were just all right. But now we're playing as a team."