The562’s coverage of Lakewood Athletics is sponsored by J.P. Crawford, Class of 2013.
Lakewood (5-5) is back in the CIF Southern Section playoffs and the Lancers will host its Division 8 opener at John Ford Stadium on Friday against Hemet.
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“This is great and we’re just excited as a program,” Lakewood coach Justin Utupo said. “The players have worked so hard for this and they’ve earned an opportunity to host a playoff game.”
Lakewood scored big wins over Wilson and Compton in the last two weeks to finish third in the Moore League. The Lancers scored 91 points in two weeks after only scoring 16 or more points once in the non-league season.
“We knew since our scrimmage against Peninsula that this team was talented,” Utupo said. “We’ve always believed in them and the challenge has been to get them to believe in themselves. That confidence and chemistry they built by playing together through adversity is what we need moving forward.”
Although many of the Lancers on this roster haven’t been in the playoffs after they missed the postseason last year, Utupo played in plenty of them when he was at Lakewood and he has a clear message for his team.
“It’s the same message from the beginning of the year and that’s to take it one day at a time,” Utupo said. “Teams make the mistake of looking at the bracket and looking ahead. They start talking about winning a championship. But those teams will fail. We’ve just got to stay focused on one game at a time.”
Hemet (8-2) is the undefeated champion out of the Inland Valley League. The Bulldogs have a stout defense that has given up less than 150 points this season, and junior running back Daniel Mendoza has racked up 1,059 yards and 11 touchdowns in eight games, according to MaxPreps.