LAKEWOOD RANCH — Heading into this season, Lakewood Ranch’s game plan was simple — pound the football.
And with their sights set on another playoff run, a potent rushing attack coupled with a solid passing game seemed like the perfect blend for the Mustangs. But that was before starting quarterback Reggie Lindsey and backup quarterback Jeren Kowalewski went down with injuries.
Since then, Lakewood has had to rely even more on its running game, centered primarily around senior tailback Taryn Laws, who also has spent time under center this season. But Laws isn’t the only player in the Mustangs backfield who has been torching defenses this season.
Perhaps the biggest surprise thus far has been the addition of running back Harrison Skokos, who has transitioned over from the defensive side of the ball. Skokos has been a valuable asset to the Mustangs offensive attack so far this season.
“He came from defense not knowing anything and he’s been an athlete for us,” Laws said. “When I’m at quarterback, he’s a running back, and I don’t have to worry about the speed changing or making sure I’ve got to do something extra. We have (confidence) in each other.”
Together, Laws and Skokos put on yet another electrifying performance — this time in front of a roaring crowd, as the host Mustangs defeated Port Charlotte 42-21 in their Class 4A-District 11 opener Oct. 8, which also served as Lakewood’s homecoming game.
The duo combined for 196 yards on the ground and five touchdowns.
“That’s what we always want to do — run first and pound the ball,” Laws said. “It’s Homecoming and, we got the win. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Lakewood coach Shawn Trent had planned to work Skokos into the Mustangs offensive game plan this season as a complement to Laws; but with the injuries, Skokos has seen even more offensive action.
“That’s been kind of our game plan the whole year,” Trent said. “We had plans of doing that going into the season, but because of some of the injuries we’ve pushed that a little more.”
After delving into its bag of tricks on the first play of the game — an onside kick, which the Mustangs recovered on Port Charlotte’s 47-yard line — Lakewood unleashed two more trick plays in the first half, resulting in 14 points and allowing the Mustangs to pull even with the Pirates heading into the locker room.
Trailing 14-7 in the second quarter, Skokos ran a reverse for a 21-yard touchdown. Then with a minute remaining in the first half, quarterback Zack Larson connected with Daniel Clifford on a quick nine-yard pass. Clifford then pitched the ball to Skokos who raced the final 41 yards down the sideline for a score.
The Mustangs continued to pound the ball in the second half, as Laws, who finished with 177 yards on 20 carries, scored three touchdowns on runs of 26, 33 and 5 yards.
“That’s what our offense does,” Trent said. “We just pound on people and usually by the third or fourth quarter most of them are kind of tired of it.”
With the win, the Mustangs improved their record to 4-2 (1-0 4A-11). Lakewood returns to non-district action at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 15, against Bayshore.
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].
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