TARPON SPRINGS — There was never any doubt.
The Lakewood Ranch High football team had every intention of finishing its Class 6A-District 12 game Oct. 5, at Tarpon Springs. After a steady downpour in the second quarter, the Mustangs headed into the locker room with a 21-14 halftime lead.
At that point, all Lakewood could do was sit and listen, as thunder and lightning erupted throughout the Spongers’ stadium.
After a 55-minute lightning delay during halftime, the Mustangs got their wish as play finally resumed. Lakewood came out and scored two touchdowns in less than two minutes before holding off the Spongers’ fourth-quarter rally en route to a 41-34 victory.
“The delay ruined our momentum a little bit, but we knew we had to come out and keep pounding the football and play sound defense,” says senior linebacker Luke Sears.
With the win, the Mustangs improve to 2-0 in the district with three district games remaining on the schedule.
Trailing 7-0, Lakewood Ranch tied the game with 11 seconds remaining in the first quarter, when Chris Pearcey scored from 2 yards out.
Pearcey added a 3-yard touchdown run with 1:12 remaining in the first half to pull the Mustangs within a point at 14-13.
“Chris (Pearcey) has done a really good job for us,” says coach Shawn Trent. “He and Angel (A’Shawn) each bring a little something different and unique. Chris’ role is more of a pounder, and Angel has the ability to make people miss and has more of that big play potential, but he doesn’t know the offense as well. Chris is bigger, stronger and older and can control the game a little bit more.”
On Tarpon Springs’ ensuing possession, Lakewood linebacker Wanley Desir intercepted a Spongers pass at the Mustangs 24-yard line and returned it to the Spongers 29-yard line, setting up a 29-yard touchdown run by Ty McLeod. Quarterback Chad Rex added a two-point conversion to give the Mustangs a 21-14 lead heading into the locker room.
Lakewood added to its lead early in the third quarter on a 12-yard touchdown run by Pearcey and a 60-yard touchdown pass from Rex to McLeod.
“I knew we were going to struggle at times,” Trent says. “They have three or four big-play athletes, who I knew were going to make plays. I was a little disappointed in some of the big plays, but we were pretty consistent moving the ball and the offense played pretty well, I thought.”
The Spongers responded with a touchdown before Pearcey scored his fourth touchdown on a 15-yard run to give the Mustangs a 41-20 lead with 5:00 to play.
Tarpon Springs scored another touchdown to pull within 41-27. The Spongers recovered an onside kick and scored again three plays later. But that would be as close as Tarpon Springs would come to a comeback, as the Mustangs recovered the Spongers’ third onside kick of the game and eventually ran out the clock.
“I think the kids got back up and played well initially,” Trent says. “I think if anything when we hit those two touchdowns right before halftime and then two more right off the bat — then it was almost like, well it’s over, and I think we started shutting it down a little more than we should have. I don’t know whether or not we would’ve had the same mindset had it been a (normal) game. I don’t feel like it ever should’ve gotten that close.”
Lakewood returns to district action Oct. 19 at Dixie Hollins following its bye week.
“The next three games are district games. I think the bye week this week comes at a good week for us. We’ve stayed relatively healthy the last week or two, but hopefully we can use the downtime to get rid of some of those nagging things because the next three weeks are really what counts,” says Trent.
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].