Lakewood hit the road for its first game of the season under first-year coach Justin Utupo and couldn’t stop the Peninsula rushing attack in a 21-12 loss.
“You have to give it up to that Peninsula team because they run the ball hard,” Utupo said. “This one hurts for the school and the whole city behind us. But we’ll get it fixed and get this thing turned around.”
It was a one-score game for most of the contest but a decisive third quarter gave Peninsula (1-1) the edge. The Panthers only passed the ball four times in the game and ran the clock down in the third quarter while limiting Lakewood (0-1) to just four plays in the 12 minute stretch. Peninsula finished the game with 245 yards on 42 carries and three touchdowns as a team.
“We have to be able to stop the run and get our defense off the field,” Utupo said. “We’re going to face teams that will be run heavy. We have to get guys down in the box. I know we have the coaches and players to get it done.”
The Lakewood defense was put into some bad spots due to special teams mistakes, but kept the Lancers in the game while the offense struggled to maintain a rhythm. Linebacker Travis Perryman led the way with a pair of tackles for loss. The defense was also without its starting corner backs.
After falling behind 7-0 early in the second quarter, Lakewood and quarterback Brayden Downen put together their best drive of the game right before halftime. The 14-play, 70-yard drive was capped by a Downen seven yard touchdown pass to A.J. Alvarez. Downen finished the day 16/29 for 170 yards.
Peninsula led 7-6 at halftime and then scored 14 unanswered points by wearing the Lancers down with their rushing attack. In stark contrast, Lakewood rushed the ball 19 times for 60 yards.
“We need to work on converting on third down and our conditioning,” Downen said. “I feel like we were tired at that end of that game because guys were playing both ways. We only had like three healthy receivers. I feel like when I was able to scramble with everyone downfield and then throwing short to receivers and letting them do their stuff.”
Utupo was disappointed that he couldn’t start his stint as head coach at his alma mater with a victory.
“It feels good to be back,” Utupo said. “This one hurts because first game back we want to get that W, but I like the way our young guys stepped up and the way our team stuck together through the whole game. We were still fighting and those are good signs.”
Lakewood hosts North on Thursday.