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‘Battle-tested’ Lakewood pulls away from Calvary Christian

The Spartans’ tough regular-season schedule, and a quarterback who can’t miss early, come into play Friday night.
Lakewood receiver Gage Nix shakes off a hit to complete his 12-yard fourth-quarter touchdown catch in the Spartans' 63-42 region final victory over Calvary Christian.
Lakewood receiver Gage Nix shakes off a hit to complete his 12-yard fourth-quarter touchdown catch in the Spartans' 63-42 region final victory over Calvary Christian. [ CHUCK FRYE | Special to the Times ]
Published Nov. 26, 2022|Updated Nov. 26, 2022

CLEARWATER — Calvary Christian stayed stride for stride with Lakewood. Until the sprint turned into a marathon.

That’s when the host Warriors — a young squad with limited numbers — started seeing some of their key performers battle cramps and other ailments. That’s also when the veteran Spartans found another gear, grinding down the Calvary defense en route to a commanding 63-42 victory in the Class 2M, Region 2 final.

“I think the strength of schedule that we played helped us a lot,” Lakewood coach Cory Moore said. “By playing down south, playing (perennial state contender) Lakeland, playing Tampa Catholic … my guys are battle tested.”

Emerging from that gauntlet with four losses hurt Lakewood’s seeding but enhanced its playoff abilities. It also created a rock-solid offensive foundation in quarterback Anthony Colandrea.

The Spartan offense was securely placed on the Virginia commit’s shoulders, and Colandrea not only felt no pressure from the circumstances, he thrived.

Completing his first 10 passes, Colandrea threw for Lakewood’s first four touchdowns while running for its fifth. He hit six different receivers and finished 24-for-29 for 419 yards and five passing TDs.

Lakewood receiver Shamar Rigby (1) congratulates quarterback Anthony Colandrea after his second-quarter rushing TD.
Lakewood receiver Shamar Rigby (1) congratulates quarterback Anthony Colandrea after his second-quarter rushing TD. [ CHUCK FRYE | Special to the Times ]

“We came in and we wanted to throw the ball because we knew who we had at receiver and who (Calvary) had at defensive back,” Colandrea said. “I kind of knew what I wanted to do with the ball all day.”

And that was to target 6-foot-5 junior Shamar Rigby (eight catches for 120 yards, two TDs), senior Antonio Bell (five receptions, 123 yards, TD), senior Montravius Lloyd (three catches, 60 yards, TD) and junior Gage Nix (four catches, 49 yards, TD).

“One (Calvary) safety in cover 3 was staring at my eyes so all I had to do was control him with my eyes and make throws,” Colandrea said. “My receivers caught the ball really good, my O-line blocked really well … all credit to those guys.”

But even with that, the Warriors (10-3) matched Lakewood (9-4) score for score behind standout play from junior Jacob Drackett (22-for-33, 242 yards, two TDs) and the breakaway speed of sophomore running back Sean Cuono (19 carries, 217 yards, two rushing TDs, one receiving).

But Calvary’s offense took a hit when Cuono started suffering cramps during the third-quarter drive that drew the hosts even at 35. That’s when Lakewood kicked into another gear thanks to running back Tra’quan Johnson.

The senior, who “is a grown man and played like a grown man” according to Moore, turned 13 carries into 172 yards and three second-half scores.

“Lakewood was a Class 4A state semifinalist last year while we’re a young Class 3A team with smaller numbers,” Warriors coach Reggie Crume said about a squad that achieved its first district title and a 10-win season. “We’ve got some talented kids that played their hearts out. They’ll learn from this game, take it with them to the offseason, and come back even stronger next year.”

And Moore concluded: “Our motto going into (Friday) came from the Bible … ‘The first is going to be last and the last is going to be first’. Out of 25 teams (in Class 2M), we were No. 25. Every game, we’re going to get better, one game at a time.”