LAKEWOOD RANCH — The Lakewood Ranch High football team didn’t quite look like itself, appearing somewhat tentative and inexperienced on its first possession.
But, that’s to be expected when you’re without your top-three running backs and both your first-team offense and defense are standing on the sidelines.
For the first time in a spring game, at the request of Naples Lely, Lakewood played its JV squad the first quarter, before turning the reins back over to its varsity players at the start of the second quarter.
The move allowed the Mustangs coaching staff to see all its players in action — a decision that Lakewood coach Shawn Trent says is key for the Mustangs heading into the fall.
“From a coaching standpoint, I think it makes it easier,” Trent says. “This way, you’re not at the end of the game down by seven, still trying to win the game, and maybe not putting in as many kids and you maybe should.
“I think it’s huge,” Trent says of getting his younger players onto the field. “We tried a lot, which drives me crazy at times, to get people in and get people out. We want to get those young kids on the field and see what they can do, because we’ve got some pretty good young kids.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Lakewood’s starters began making an immediate impact. The Mustangs forced three turnovers, resulting in three touchdowns, as the host Mustangs rolled to a 21-0 victory May 24.
Rising senior linebacker Ty McLeod intercepted a Lely pass on the Trojans’ first possession of the first half, setting up quarterback Chad Rex’s 52-yard completion to Cameron Pearcey. Rex capped off the drive five plays later with a 3-yard keeper on fourth-and-goal.
The Mustangs also forced three fumbles, two of which came in the second half, and a turnover on downs.
“Defensively, I think we have a chance to be pretty good,” Trent says. “We’ve still got a ways to go. We made some mistakes, but the thing is we’re still very young.
“I thought they ran to the ball probably as well as we ever have,” he says. “They created some turnovers and did some good things. If you can have a turnover margin like that, you’re probably going to win a lot more games than you’re going to lose.”
Without starting running back Chris Pearcey, who was resting a sore knee, and backup running back A’Shawn Angel, the Mustangs turned to rising senior tight end Wyatt McLeod.
Wyatt McLeod finished with eight carries for 29 yards and a touchdown. He also hauled in two passes.
“Wyatt’s a man,” Trent says. “A lot of times, Wyatt’s a man playing with boys. We’re trying to do things to help Wyatt out. Having those guys (back) will open some stuff up for Wyatt.”
Rex completed 10-of-13 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown. Pearcey caught four passes for 104 yards.
“Chad did a good job,” Trent says. “He made some mistakes, and that’s going to happen. He’s still young. Between him and Wyatt, there’s a lot of stuff that you can do with those two kids.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].