ST. PETERSBURG — Before taking the field Friday, Lakewood coach Cory Moore had a question for his players: “How many of you guys beat Braden River?”
No hands went up.
“They beat us in the spring game, they beat us the spring before …,” Moore said.
Well, consider that streak broken, and with authority. With speed and savvy on offense, and size and aggressiveness on defense, the host Spartans rolled to a 38-20 victory to remain unbeaten on the year.
“We just try to get everyone better,” senior running back Derrel Kelley said. “As a team, we want to jell together.”
Even though Lakewood (5-0) got nicked for its first points allowed this year, Braden River (2-3) never could rebound from a 17-0 first-quarter deficit.
The weapons for the Spartans were numerous:
Making smart, split-second decisions pay off with amazing mobility, quarterback Deuce Spann got the attack going with a brilliant 75-yard touchdown run, finishing with 157 rushing yards on 14 carries while hitting on 7 of 15 passes for 130 more yards and another TD.
Senior T.J. Tampa paired up with Spann for a lightning-quick two-play scoring “drive,” finishing it with a dazzling, ankle-breaking 75-yard dash to the house.
After registering a 40-yard scoring dash in the first quarter, Kelley took over the third quarter with TD runs of 1 and 56 yards, finishing with 135 yards on only 12 carries that typically started with his waiting for a hole then exploding through it.
“That patience comes from my dad; he taught me everything I know,” Kelley said. “If a hole isn’t there, keep on looking because it will be in another spot. I just use my vision, my O-line gets me a hole and I hit it. I’ve been doing it since I was a toddler.”
All the while, Lakewood's defensive interior, led by mammoth but mobile tackles Andarius Wilson and Trey Scruggs, owned the trenches, forcing Braden River to work the edges with limited success.
“(Andarius) doesn’t get a lot of attention, but he’s super important for us,” Moore said. “'Tank' has a defensive lineman’s body but thinks he’s a skill player. He has a good nose for the ball and is tough as nails.”
Marques Alexander registered a sack and fumble recovery while Cortez McKenzie and Aumhryaun Brown added a sack apiece. Samari Smith wrapped up the impressive effort with a fourth-quarter interception in his own end zone.
“Every game, we play like it’s for the state championship so that when we get there, it’s going to be like nothing,” Kelley said. “That’s what we do, it’s where we want to go. We’ll play like that every game, play like that until we get there.”