PALMETTO — At 5-foot-6, Lakewood Ranch High defensive back Doug Snell often is overlooked.
Limited mainly to special teams, the senior doesn’t get nearly as many opportunities to make an impact, as some of his other teammates, but Snell knows it only takes one big play to change the outcome of the game.
And on a night when the Mustangs needed to make a play to keep their season alive, Snell used his size to his advantage.
Clinging to a three-point lead with less than two minutes to play in the game, Palmetto kicker Brandon Tarpley lined up for a 25-yard field goat. But the Tigers lost sight of Snell, who burst through an open seam untouched, diving for the ball, which bounced off of his facemask.
“I usually come from the outside because I’ve got short little legs — I’ve got quick steps,” Snell said. I’m only like 5-foot-6, but Jared (Brinton) said, ‘Doug I’m taking outside this time.’ Jared’s a big playmaker and I think they were more concerned about him because they didn’t see me on the field.
“There was just a huge hole between the second-to-last guy and the last guy, and I just went right through that untouched,” Snell added.
Lakewood senior Jared Brinton recovered the ball and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown, propelling the Mustangs to a 17-13 victory over the Tigers in Class 4A-District 10 action Nov. 6.
“Before they snapped the ball, I told them, ‘We’ve got one play or our season is over. If we block this then we’ve got a chance,’” Brinton said. “… I thought I was going to (run out of breath), but I just kept running.”
With the win, the Mustangs (5-4, 2-1) clinched a spot in the postseason as the district runner-up, marking their first trip to the playoffs since 2006. Lakewood will travel to Cape Coral Nov. 20 for the regional quarterfinals — a year after its dismal 1-9 season.
“The kids worked hard all summer long, and I’m really proud for the seniors and happy for them more so than anything,” Lakewood coach Shawn Trent said.
“Words can’t explain how I feel right now,” Snell said. “This win means a lot. We improved a bunch. We got some new coaching and it just feels great to improve tremendously like that.”
Lakewood took a 3-0 lead late in the first quarter on a 35-yard field goal by junior kicker Seth Browning. The Mustangs further extended their lead on a 2-yard touchdown from senior quarterback Reggie Lindsey to senior tight end Jake Carlton.
Palmetto responded late in the second quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Donald Campbell, cutting Lakewood’s lead to 10-6.
The Tigers took the lead with 11:54 remaining in the fourth quarter on a 14-yard touchdown run by Marquis Green. Palmetto was driving again late in the fourth quarter before the Mustangs defense rose to the occasion, setting up the eventual field goal attempt that would result in Brinton’s game-winning touchdown.
“I told the kids when we had the timeout that if we force them into a field goal then we can still do something, so we couldn’t give up the first down,” Trent said.
Lakewood will close out its regular season at home tomorrow night against Wauchula Hardee. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
The Class 2A-District 6 champion Wildcats are coming off a 28-6 victory over DeSoto. The undefeated Wildcats, who have outscored their opponents 313-42, could prove to be the perfect test, as the Mustangs prepare to close out the regular season on a winning note before preparing for the postseason.
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LR 3 7 0 7 — 17
P 0 6 0 7 — 13
LR — FG Seth Browning 35, 33.9
LR — Jake Carlton 2 pass from Reggie Lindsey (Browning kick), 3:33
P — Donald Campbell 1 run (kick failed)
P — Marquis Green 14 run (Brandon Tarpley kick), 11:54
LR — Jared Brinton 75 blocked field goal return (Browning kick), 1:07
Rushing — Lakewood Ranch: Taryn Laws 22-148, Lindsey 10-36, Carlton 3-25, Damen Gilbert 2-14, Sam Harper 1-3. Palmetto: Green 21-87, Campbell 9-40, Dequan Reddick 2-8
Passing — Lakewood Ranch: Lindsey 9-16-103-1. Palmetto: Campbell 3-14-50-3.
Receiving — Lakewood Ranch: Carlton 5-64, Octavious Washington 3-34, Laws 1-5. Palmetto: Shaquille Mays 1-23, Markens Aimable 1-14, Travontae Rhodes 1-13.