Lakewood Ranch quarterback Chad Rex and running back J.T. Fischer combined for 233 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Mustangs to a 42-31 victory over rival Braden River tonight in the Class 7A-District 10 opener.
With the win, Lakewood has now won four straight over Braden River.
But tonight’s game took on a whole new meaning, as it was the first time the two East County rivals found themselves in the same district.
“Our friends are best friends with them and it’s a big game,” Rex says. “It just means a lot to everybody and if you lose its not a good feeling. And now they are in the district, so it means a lot more than it already should.
“We just know it’s the district and it’s Braden River, and we’ve got to come to play every time we play them,” Rex says. “We should do it every week, but with Braden River it’s just something different.”
The host Pirates took a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter when quarterback Dusty Peebles connected with Lou Ziebell for a 16-yard score.
Lakewood responded with a touchdown of its after Rex scrambled 15 yards into the end zone with 11 minutes, 45 seconds remaining in the second quarter to tie the game at 7-7.
Lakewood took a 14-7 lead with 5:16 left in the first half on a 46-yard touchdown pass from Rex to Cameron Pearcey.
Braden River drove down to Lakewood’s 20-yard line late in the second quarter, but Lakewood defensive back Craig Bain intercepted Peebles and returned the ball 80 yards down the sideline for a touchdown, giving Lakewood a 21-7 lead.
Braden River kicker Austin Myara connected on a 28-yard field goal as time expired in the first to pull the Pirates within 21-10 heading into the locker room.
After stopping Lakewood on fourth down to open the third quarter, Braden River marched 46 yards in seven plays. Peebles’ 30-yard touchdown to Andre Mays pulled the Pirates within 21-17.
Rex fumbled the fall on the Mustangs ensuing drive, and the Pirates took over at Lakewood’s 20-yard line. Peebles connected with Justin Rawlings for a 19-yard touchdown, giving Braden River a 24-21 lead with 2:44 left in the third quarter.
“We knew we were going to have a hard time stopping (Andre Mays) and (Justin Ross),” Lakewood coach Shawn Trent says. “Those are two special kids and the quarterback does a good job of just laying it up and letting them go get the ball. We thought we could stop them running the ball, but we were worried about (Mays) and (Ross) going vertical on us.”
Lakewood answered five plays later when Fischer broke a pair of tackles and ran down the Mustangs sideline for a 51-yard score.
Trailing 28-24, Ziebell connected with Carlos Crawford one a fake punt for an 18-yard completion and a first down. Five plays later, Peebles punched the ball in from a yard out to give the Pirates a 31-28 lead.
Rex connected with Fischer for a 68-yard completion on the Mustangs ensuing possession, which set up a 5-yard touchdown run by Wyatt McLeod with 9:25 remaining in regulation.
Lakewood extended its lead on Rex’s 30-yard scramble with 2:50 remaining in the game.
“Ultimately the district is more important than anything,” Trent says. “I think that’s what the kids have to focus on and understand. Right now that’s the only thing that matters. Beating Braden River from now on doesn’t really mean anything because we still have three more district games that count to put us where we want to be.”
Rex finished with 98 yards on the ground. He also completed 11-of-13 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown.
Peebles completed 22-of-33 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw an interception. Mays hauled in nine passes for 121 yards. Justin Ross caught seven passes for 56 yards.
“It was a good football game,” Braden River coach Curt Bradley says. “We made more mistakes than we had in the first two games and we gave up some big plays defensively. We had them on the ropes their in the third quarter and they made two huge plays. It was back and forth and we just ran out of gas.
“Last year, going down 21-7, we would’ve got beat 42-7,” Bradley says. “This year we fought back and took the lead. That’s something this program can take moving forward.”
Braden River and Lakewood both return to non-district action next week. The Pirates will host Booker while the Mustangs travel to Charlotte.
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.