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Football: Lakewood Stifles Wilson For Crucial League Win

The562’s coverage of Lakewood Athletics is sponsored by J.P. Crawford, Class of 2013.

The562’s coverage of Long Beach Wilson Athletics is sponsored by Joel Bitonio, Class of 2009.

Friday night’s meeting between Lakewood (4-5, 3-2) and Wilson (3-6, 3-3) had all the makings of a playoff atmosphere. Both teams needed the win for a shot at postseason play, and Wilson’s Homecoming celebration made sure the home bleachers were packed.

Ultimately, the Lakewood defense stole the show and dominated the Wilson offense in an impressive 41-0 win. The blowout victory is key for Lakewood’s playoff chances, and a win over Compton next week would seal a postseason berth for the Lancers.

“The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Lakewood coach Justin Utupo. “We were fresh, we had two weeks to prepare for them, it was more than enough time for us to be ready to go. I loved our game plan in all three phases of the game and we took care of business. We knew this was a playoff game and we stay alive.”

The Lancers’ defense allowed just 31 total yards to Wilson on 32 plays from scrimmage. Defensive tackle Rahkeen Moore set the tone early and often with a pair of sacks and a handful of tackles for loss as the Lancers shut down Wilson’s star running back, Christian Chapman. The junior was averaging over 130 yards per game this season, but ran for just 3 yards on 8 carries against Lakewood.

“I’m very proud,” Moore said of the defense’s performance. “Us being able to shut (Chapman) down was just staying locked in on our keys from the get go. That was one of the main goals to shut him down, that was very crucial to the defense having a good game.”

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The Lancers only allowed Wilson to gain three first downs, while also forcing a pair of second-half turnovers: Tyree McCowen’s fumble recovery and Anthony Winston’s 29-yard interception return for a touchdown. Linebacker Montrell Mingo had some big hits and was flying all over the field and Noah Mallon added a sack of his own.

“I’m proud of our entire defense, players and coaches,” Utupo said. “They had their hands full with (Chapman) and they did a great job containing him. I challenge them to be a Red Swarm defense, we kind of lost our edge against our last opponent, so I saw a little bit of that tonight.”

The Lakewood offense wasn’t too shabby either as they produced their second-highest point total of the season. RB Kaleb Foster had an efficient night, mostly racking up yards in the first half and ending up with a line of 9 carries for 70 yards and a pair of TDs.

QB Brayden Downen displayed some terrific pocket presence, extending several plays with his feet allowing him to make plays on the ground or through the air. He was 10/18 for 94 yards and 2 TDs through the air, but also ran it 4 times for 42 yards and a score through the first three quarters. His 17-yard TD scamper made it 12-0 Lakewood in the second quarter. He then kept another play alive for a 24-yard TD pass to Ethan Sharp with 22 seconds left in the first half, giving the Lancers a 20-0 lead at the break.

“I wasn’t even really thinking, I was just playing and then my instincts took over,” said Downen on his elusiveness in those key moments. “My goal coming into this season was to make the playoffs, so it’s exciting to take a step towards that.”

On the flip side, it was a brutal night for Wilson all around. Sophomore Jalen Nelson suffered a serious leg injury midway through the first quarter which resulted in an extended delay while he received medical attention. That took the air out of the Wilson sideline and the Bruins never quite recovered.

“Yeah, that was a real rough start,” said Wilson head coach Scott Meyer after the game, “I’m going to go check on Jalen right now, but that was a real tough way to start the game. I think emotionally, our kids saw it, everybody saw it, it was a rough injury. Probably not the difference in the game, but obviously pretty tough for some high school kids to overcome, I think.”

Wilson will conclude its season next Friday with a non-league home game against Saddelback.

Meanwhile, Lakewood will host Compton next Friday night with third place in the Moore League up for grabs. It’s simple for the Lancers: win, and you’re going to the playoffs.

“We’re gonna enjoy this victory, they played unbelievable tonight, but it’s right back to work tomorrow,” Utupo said. “We know what Compton is gonna do, and it's gonna be our homecoming game. You can’t ask for a better opportunity than what we have in front of us–to win at home on Homecoming for our seniors and to keep our season alive.”

VIDEO: Lakewood vs. Wilson, Football
PHOTOS: Lakewood vs. Wilson, Football
Tyler Hendrickson
Tyler Hendrickson was born and raised in Long Beach, and started covering sports in his hometown in 2010. After five years as a sportswriter, Tyler joined the athletic department at Long Beach State University in 2015. He spent more than four years in the athletic communications department, working primarily with the Dirtbags baseball program. Tyler also co-authored of The History of Long Beach Poly: Scholars & Champions.