The562’s coverage of Lakewood Athletics is sponsored by J.P. Crawford, Class of 2013.
For the first time in 12 years, Lakewood football hosted a first round playoff game to open the CIF Southern Section Division 8 playoffs at John Ford Stadium.
Friday night’s game would’ve looked very familiar to Lancer faithful, as Lakewood’s Red Swarm defense forced four turnovers and didn’t give up an offensive touchdown on their way to a 28-10 victory over Hemet.
“We have to feed off one another,” Lakewood coach Justin Utupo said. “Sometimes the offense is going to start slow and the defense is going to have to bring that energy and if the defense starts slow then the offense has to juice them up. I’m proud of the way we were able to feed off one another and finish this thing strong, especially on the defensive side of the ball.”
After a quick three-and-out for Lakewood on their opening drive, the Lancers defense came up with a huge play as Anthony Winston forced Hemet’s Daniel Mendoza to fumble and Javier Aguilar scooped it up and scored to give Lakewood a 7-0 lead three minutes into the game.
“All week I had been watching individual film,” Winston said. “I saw an opening and I took it, and then I look up and my teammate Javi running it into the end zone. It was all good.”
It was an impressive outing for the Red Swarm as they held Hemet to 26 yard of total offense – a much needed lift with the offensive struggles early on. Lakewood only gave up two first downs.
“To be honest, we knew they weren’t on our level,” Winston Jr. said. “We wanted to do our part. The offense struggled at first – we did our part and they came back.”
Lakewood needed that lift after the offense was shutout in the first half. Hemet cut the lead to 7-3 after Moises Amezquita drilled a 39-yard field goal early in the second quarter.
On the next possession, Lakewood’s offensive struggles continued as Brayden Downen was picked off by Hemet’s Christopher Washington and he returned it all the way for a touchdown as the Bulldogs took a 10-7 lead with 10:16 remaining in the half.
“Our quarterback has to play better,” Utupo said. “He’s got to take care of the football. We hold him to a high standard. He has a lot of expectations, so our leader on the offense has to take care of the ball.”
Trailing 10-7 at halftime, Downen and the Lakewood defense got back to the type of play that got them into the playoffs.
On Hemet’s opening drive of the second half, Ayeven Aupiu picked off Draven Lopez to set up the Lancer offense at Hemet’s 49-yard-line.
The Lancers called three rushes and Smith capped scored on a 25-yard run to put the Lancers back in the lead 14-10 with 10:06 left in the third.
Lakewood’s special teams then came up with a big turnover after recovering a fumble on the ensuing kick off return to put the offense right back on the field.
After turning the ball over on downs, Smith came up with an interception that put Lakewood on their own 35-yard-line.
The Lancers then went on a 10-play, 65-yard drive the put the Lancers up comfortable 21-10 after Downen called his own number and scored on a 27-yard touchdown.
Kaleb Foster finished the night with 17 carries for 106 yards.
Lakewood will now travel for their second round matchup when they head to Redondo Beach to take on the Sea Hawks next Friday.
The Lancers will need another solid performance from their defense, and the method has been simple for Lakewood.
“Our front seven need to stay locked in and dominate,” Lakewood’s Montrell Mingo said.