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Secret to Lakewood High’s success? A lights-out defense

The “Duke Energy Boys” have helped drive an unbeaten season, not giving up a touchdown in seven games.
Tre'von Riggins, a University of Miami commit, has been a force for the Lakewood defense since he transferred from IMG Academy. [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
Tre'von Riggins, a University of Miami commit, has been a force for the Lakewood defense since he transferred from IMG Academy. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Nov. 13
Updated Nov. 13

ST. PETERSBURG ― When asked about about his team prior to the season, Lakewood High coach Cory Moore shook his head, gave a wry smile and said “Man, we’re gonna be good."

Three months later, Moore was proven right. The Spartans are 10-0 for only the second time in school history. They are the top seed in Class 4A, Region 3. The quest for a first-ever state title begins Friday night against No. 5 Clewiston.

Optimism has rarely been higher. The main reason for that is a defense that dominated all season. Lakewood allowed 6.7 points per game and recorded six shutouts. The unit did not allow a touchdown in seven games (Largo scored three points).

They’ve even given themselves a nickname: The Duke Energy Boys.

“They turn people’s lights off," Moore said.

Related: RELATED: Sean Callahan returns to the football sidelines at Lakewood High

There are playmakers all over the field. Safety Aumhryaun Brown has a team-high 74 tackles. Andarius Wilson shuts down the run as the nose guard. Defensive end Earvin Ealy has four sacks.

And it didn’t hurt getting defensive end Tre’von Riggins back. Riggins returned to Lakewood in the spring after two years at IMG Academy. He brought a no-nonsense approach that has rubbed off on teammates.

At 6-foot-4, 280 pounds, the Miami commit has been a nightmare for offensive linemen.

“I take it very seriously," Riggins said. “It’s the playoffs, lose one game and you’re home. My whole thing is to take every practice seriously. Take it day by day. ‘What am I going to do today?’ There is always somebody out there who is trying to outwork you."

That work ethic, he said, came from his father. Thomas W. Riggins III was a resource officer for troubled youths before he died in March. He wanted to dedicate this season to his father.

“When my dad was growing up he didn’t have anyone to show him the right direction," Riggins said. “He wanted to do that for kids. He set an example for a lot of kids.

“I know he’s proud. I just tried to lead by example. He liked people to do the right things and that’s what I want."

Lakewood junior Cortez Mckenzie and the Spartans have applied constant pressure all season. [SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times]

Fellow Miami commit Cortez McKenzie, a year younger than Riggins, sees his future college teammate as a leader. He knows they are different people, and he respects that.

“I’m the goofy, playful type," McKenzie said. “He’s the serious type. No joking. I try to joke with him sometimes, but never on the field."

McKenzie, who played for Lakewood as a sophomore before transferring to Superior Collegiate when he was suspended for six weeks due to a post-game fight, has been back since the spring. He has been another big part of the defensive turnaround. He has a team-high 12 sacks and an interception.

“Just playing my game, being Cortez," he said. “That’s what I do best. I would’ve had more (sacks). I had to sit out the first half of two games."

Related: MORE PREP FOOTBALL: Clearwater Central Catholic’s faith, fate all on the line

And then there is junior middle linebacker Derrveron Maxwell-Black, who likes to be called Bobby, which was his grandfather’s name. He is in his second year as a starter. Moore calls him the quarterback of the defense.

“He gets everybody where they are supposed to be," Moore said.

Maxwell-Black has four sacks and 64 total tackles. He said there is a big difference between this year’s defense and last year’s, and it has nothing to do with physical play.

“This year we’ve got a lot of communication going on. We do way better with communication," Maxwell-Black said. “The team makes me a better player. We’re all like brothers."

Moore has a different description for his defensive unit.

“They are dogs," he said.

Contact Rodney Page at rpage@tampabay.com. Follow @RodneyHomeTeam.

High school football region semifinals

All games 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Class 2A, Region 3

• No. 3 Seffner Christian at No. 2 Northside Christian

• No. 4 Admiral Farragut at No. 1 Cambridge Christian

Class 3A, Region 3

• No. 5 Clearwater Central Catholic at No. 1 Berkeley Prep

Class 4A, Region 3

• No. 4 Clewiston at No. 1 Lakewood

• No. 3 Tampa Catholic at No. 2 Delray Beach American Heritage

Class 5A, Region 3

• No. 8 Chamberlain at No. 4 Jesuit

Class 5A, Region 2

• No. 4 Nature Coast at No. 1 Orlando Jones

Class 6A, Region 2

• No. 5 Clearwater at No. 1 Gaither

• No. 3 Lake Minneola at No. 2 Largo

Class 7A, Region 3

• No. 3 Manatee at No. 2 Mitchell

Class 7A, Region 2

• No. 5 Bloomingdale at No. 1 Armwood

• No. 6 Tampa Bay Tech at No. 2 Lakeland

Class 8A, Region 2

• No. 4 Steinbrenner at No. 1 Sarasota Riverview

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Senior football players in Pinellas County took to the gridiron for their final prep game Wednesday night. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Of the past 15 meetings, the South has been on the losing end 13 times.
  2. In this file photo, Lakewood High School defensive lineman Tre'von Riggins (98) takes a moment during a spring football practice last April. [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
    Measures to prevent heatstroke deaths were among the key items in a bill that unanimously passed its first committee on Wednesday.
  3. A little more than a month into the season, Nature Coast Tech sophomore Kennedy Weissman leads the state in scoring with 41 goals and 92 points, almost double the totals of the next closest player. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    The sophomore has a whopping 41 goals so far this season, easily tops of any player in Florida.
  4. Largo's Julia Violante (6), center, gets a hug from teammate Sarai Faulkner (17), right, while joining Asti Luff (23), left, and McKenzie Emery (14) at midfield moments after scoring her second goal of the night (2-0) against St. Petersburg on Monday. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  TImes]
    The University of Florida commit is having a banner season on the pitch, but is missing her biggest fan.
  5. Hezekiah B. Walters, 14, was a member of Men of Vision, a local non-profit for teens. He collapsed while participating in football conditioning drills at Middleton High School during the summer. [MEN OF VISION  |  Special to the Times]
    The death of Middleton High’s Hezekiah B. Walters during summer conditioning helps spark a bill that seeks better protection for players at practices and games.
  6. East Lake and rival St. Petersburg squared off Tuesday night, this time as non-district foes. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The Eagles’ 67-30 victory over the Green Devils is their fourth straight in the series since late last season.
  7. Springstead guard Unique Torain makes a nifty assist during a victory at Nature Coast on Tuesday night. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    The Eagles are led by Unique Torain’s 18 points and unselfish play.
  8. Clearwater wide receiver Keedrik Murray (5) catches the ball for a touchdown during the first quarter at Gaither High on Nov. 15. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    The 25th edition of the game will be held at Clearwater High.
  9. Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott talks with receivers Mike Williams (7) and Artavis Scott (3) during a 2016 game at FSU. Scott was named USF's coach Monday. [DAVID GROOMS/CAL SPORT MEDIA  |  ZUMAPRESS.com]
    Though not the bay area’s primary recruiter for Clemson, Scott’s fingerprints are all over the region.
  10. Tampa Catholic's Alijah Harrison attempts to block the ball from Andrew Jackson's Logan West during last year's state semifinals in Lakeland. [LUIS SANTANA  |  Times]
    Tampa Catholic holds on to the top spot after an impressive opening week.
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