Compton Football Lakewood

Football: Lakewood Pulls Away From Compton, Clinches Postseason Bid

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

At the start of the fourth quarter on Friday night, Compton faced 2nd & Goal at the Lakewood 2-yard line. The Lancers were protecting a 28-20 lead, and would need to stop Compton’s running game on three consecutive plays, with little margin for error.

On that second down play, Lakewood freshman Ayeven Aupiu made perhaps the biggest play of the night, stopping Compton running back Erick Barrios with a one-on-one tackle for a four-yard loss. The Lakewood defense ended up forcing a turnover on downs, and dominated the fourth quarter in impressive fashion to pull away for a crucial 50-20 win at John Ford Stadium.

The victory secured a third-place finish for the Lancers in the Moore League standings, and gave Lakewood head coach Justin Utupo his first playoff berth as head coach of his alma mater.

“I’m excited for the program, the Lakewood community, but more importantly, for our players. They earned this. They earned the opportunity to keep playing,” Utupo said, still soaked from his celebratory bath just before the final whistle. “We talked about the month of November being lonely. Next week there are kids who are going to be turning in their equipment, or preparing for the first round of playoffs. They got the job done tonight, hats off to them and our coaching staff, I’m proud of all of them.”

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Compton’s rushing attack kept them in the game for three quarters as they successfully shortened the game and limited the opportunities for Lakewood’s offense. However, things shifted drastically in the fourth quarter.

Lakewood’s offense ran 13 plays in the final quarter for an impressive 216 yards, averaging 16.6 yards per play. The Lancers averaged an eye-popping 19.2 yards per carry in that quarter, outsourcing Compton 22-0 to put the game away. Meanwhile, Compton’s offense ran 12 plays for only 6 yards in the fourth quarter against a suffocating Lancers defense.

“At halftime, we talked to the team about who wants this more. And if you want it, go out there and prove it,” Utupo said. “Hats off to our defense for a huge goal line stop. I think that was really the game.”

Senior running back Kaleb Foster had another solid night for the Lancers, gaining 140 yards on 12 carries with a pair of touchdowns. As a team, the Lancers ran the ball 22 times for 248 yards, averaging 11.3 yards per rush.

“It feels great for the whole team,” said Foster after the win. “For me especially, I transferred in this season and I put a target on my back myself, I want to show that I’m a great player. This team, we’re a family, a brotherhood, and it just feels great to win with these guys … My linemen block for me and they tell me they’ve got my back. I appreciate them, and I’ve got their back; so just give me the ball and Ima do what I can do.”

Foster started the scoring with a five-yard TD plunge in the first quarter, as the Lancers scored on both of their first-half drives. A nine-yard passing TD from Brayden Downen to JT DaCoud made the score 14-6 for Lakewood after Compton’s Aava Lilomaiava punched in a three-yard TD to get Compton on the board early in the second quarter.

Lakewood’s offense was on the field for just 7 minutes and 43 seconds in the first half as Compton held the ball for long drives. Lakewood led 14-6 at intermission.

The second half started with a flurry, as the teams traded four touchdowns back-and-forth in the first 6:34 of the third quarter. Barrios made a huge defensive play on the first drive of the half, pulling the ball away from a Lakewood receiver as the referees were slow to blow the play dead. He then raced 55 yards for a game-tying touchdown, making it 14-14.

Lakewood needed just three plays to respond as Downen hit Takim Raye-Brown for a 12-yard TD toss and a 20-14 lead. But back came the Tarbabes thanks to a big kickoff return from Taijon Direaux, who set them up on the Lakewood 25. Five plays later, Barrios punched in his first rushing TD of the night to make it 20-20 with 5:42 left in the third. Unfortunately for Compton, they would not score again and Lakewood would respond immediately.

On the first play of the ensuing drive, Downen (9/13, 152 yards, 3 TDs) went deep for a 52-yard TD connection with Sean Lane. Downen would also run in the two-point conversion to put the Lancers up 28-20 with 5:26 left in the third.

Following Lakewood’s goal line stand to start the fourth quarter, Foster ran for 67 yards on just three carries during that next drive, scoring from 28 yards out to put the Lancers up by 14. 

A Jace Casillas interception got the ball back to the offense, and Lakewood added a TD run from Zion Smith plus a TD pass from Kade Casillas to Ethan Sharp to close the scoring.

Compton’s loss means they’ll need to rely on an at-large berth in order to make the postseason.

“(Lakewood) played a good game, they played well for four quarters,” said Compton head coach Calvin Bryant. “They scored almost every time they touched the ball, so it was a grind. We’ve just got to make sure we’re better in the fourth quarter so we can finish our games, but hats off to them good luck to them in the playoffs.”

The CIF-SS playoff brackets will be released on Sunday morning. Be sure to follow along with The562.org for full coverage of Bracket Day.

VIDEO: Lakewood vs. Compton, Football
PHOTOS: Lakewood vs. Compton, 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.