LAKEWOOD RANCH — The Lakewood Ranch High defense allowed 19 points during the first two games of the season — an impressive feat for a unit that only has four returning starters from last season.
For the third straight week, the Mustangs relied on their defense to carry them. And through three quarters, Lakewood’s game plan was spot on, as the Mustangs held a 14-0 lead over Bayshore heading into the fourth quarter of their non-district game Sept. 14.
But, in the span of a minute, the Mustangs, who moments before were on the verge of posting their first shutout of the season, gave up a pair of touchdowns, including a 1-yard plunge by Bruins quarterback Wesley Jackson, following his 49-yard scramble, and Dereck Williams’ 48-yard touchdown run to tie the game with six minutes left in regulation.
“I felt like we went in at halftime thinking we had this game won; and we came out (in the second half), went through the motions and didn’t play how we played the first half,” senior defensive back K.J. Brown said. “They took advantage of our bad decisions and bad plays.”
After watching its lead slip away, Lakewood’s defense gathered together on the sideline and discussed how someone needed to step up and make a play.
And step up, they did.
With the game tied 14-14, the Mustangs blocked a 19-yard field goal with 1:05 left in the fourth quarter. Rather than watching Bayshore come from behind to score 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and putting the game out of reach, Lakewood’s defense, led by Brown, Luke Sears and Andre Christiano, propelled the game into overtime.
“We had a senior meeting and said, ‘Seniors, we’ve got to pick it up,’” Brown said. “We made plays that we needed to make.”
In overtime, Lakewood took possession first at the Bayshore 10-yard line, and three plays later freshman running back A’Shawn Angel ran in from 5 yards out to give the Mustangs a 21-14 lead.
Bayshore responded with an 8-yard run of its own, on its opening play to set up second and goal from the 2-yard line. But the Mustangs stopped Bruins quarterback Wesley Jackson for a 1-yard loss and then forced an incompletion.
Bayshore took a timeout, during which Lakewood coach Shawn Trent reiterated to his players how the game was in their hands.
“My D-line coach asked me what I told them and I said, ‘Stop them on this play,’” Trent said.
During the final play of the game, a host of Mustang defenders swarmed Jackson again, dropping him for a 12-yard loss on fourth down to seal a 21-14 victory for the Mustangs.
“We needed a win and defense did its thing,” Brown said.
The Mustangs’ offense used big plays of its own to take a 14-0 lead into the fourth quarter.
Lakewood quarterback Chad Rex connected with Cameron Pearcey for a 31-yard completion. Seven plays later, Rex connected with Ty McLeod for a 14-yard touchdown to give the Mustangs a 6-0 lead.
Lakewood extended its lead in the third quarter on a 4-yard touchdown run by Chris Pearcey. Rex connected with Cameron Pearcey for a two-point conversion to give the Mustangs a 14-0 lead with 4:19 left in the third quarter.
“I thought we played better offensively,” Trent said. “There were still a couple of things we left on the field that could have helped us at key times, but when you’re as young as we are, you’ll take a ‘W’ any way you can get it.”
The Mustangs return to action Sept. 21 when they host Gulfport Boca Ciega in their district opener.
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.