LAKEWOOD RANCH — For the past three weeks Lakewood Ranch High coach Shawn Trent has been focused on teaching his players basic fundamentals while stressing the importance of hard work.
With spring practice officially behind them, Trent and the rest of the Mustangs coaching staff were eager to see just how many of those rules, guidelines and techniques actually sunk in.
“We just want to see if they’re doing what they’ve been coached to do for the last 18 days,” Trent said. “That’s really what you hope for in spring. We’ve got a lot of young kids and we want to see how far those kids came in the last month.”
With a relatively young offense, particularly on the offensive line, Trent wasn’t sure what to expect when the Mustangs took the field in their spring game against visiting Cape Coral Island Coast May 29. But after four quarters of hard-fought football and a 20-14 victory over the Gators, Trent said he was pleased with the way his players carried themselves on the field.
“I thought they did really well,” Trent said. “It’s hard to tell until we go back and evaluate film and stuff like that, but they did a good job.”
Lakewood struggled throughout much of the 2008 season and after losing several playmakers to graduation, the Mustangs attempted to insert some of their younger players into prominent roles, particularly on the offense.
Aside from a young offensive line, the Mustangs started sophomores Reggie Lindsey at quarterback and Damen Gilbert at wide receiver. Lindsey and Gilbert both showed a lot of promise while leading the first team offense on two consecutive scoring drives.
“We made some mistakes,” Trent said. “We had some fumbles and stuff, which we’ve got to eliminate, but those kids are young too. The quarterback’s a sophomore. Three of the five kids that started on the offensive line are freshmen and one of them is a sophomore that never played a game before.”
Lindsey completed 6-of-8 on the night for 125 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 13-yard pass to Octavious Washington and a 47-yard pass to Gilbert.
“He’s fast, and that’s one of the things we’ve talked about is he gives us a chance to do something,” Trent said of Gilbert. “Octavious is the same way. Those two kids can make something happen in a hurry.”
The Mustangs defense also showed several signs of improvement most noticeably on the Gator’s opening possession and again late in the fourth quarter. Island Coast received the ball to start the game, but the Gators fumbled the ball on the first play of their opening drive. Lakewood’s Austin Cognac recovered the ball — his first of two fumble recoveries on the night — and 10 plays later running back Michael Myers scored from yard out to give the Mustangs the early lead.
With Lakewood holding on to a six-point lead late in the fourth quarter and Island Coast driving, freshman safety Zack Larson stepped up and intercepted the ball on the Gators final two drives of the game to preserve the victory for the Mustangs.
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