The562’s coverage of football in 2023-24 is sponsored in part by the MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center Foundation and Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital Foundation.
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.
It’s not about how you get knocked down. It’s about how you get back up.
Lakewood and sophomore quarterback Kade Casillas proved that on Friday night when Wilson came to town for an imperative Moore League football matchup.
Just two weeks after suffering a devastating loss to rival Millikan in a game that saw Casillas throw four interceptions, he threw four touchdowns in a dominant 41-27 win over Wilson.
“I took some time, watched a lot of film and studied,” Casillas said of bouncing back. “It was a lot of dumb throws. It was mental. It’s my first full year so I’m making sure I grow in every game. I have to be calm in the moment and not be too over aggressive.”
Casillas completed 17 of his 25 pass attempts for 219 yards while throwing touchdowns to three different receivers, and he also had a rushing touchdown of his own.
“You can kind of see him growing week to week,” Lakewood coach Justin Utupo said. “He’s a special talent, not only what he can do in the air, but he can also escape and extend plays on the ground.”
Lakewood (4-5, 3-2) has all but clinched a third place finish in league and a guaranteed CIF playoff spot. The Lancers finish the regular season against Compton next week. Wilson (3-6, 2-4) finishes its season against Saddleback.
“That was a big team win,” Casillas said. “We needed that going forward with playoffs on the way. It was huge.”
With its new two-back wrinkle on offense, the Lakewood offense started sharply with an eight-play scoring drive that Casillas capped with a touchdown pass to Nytrell Miller.
Wilson responded well by feeding running backs Christian Chapman and Laighton Scott V on its ensuing drive. Scott V scored from 25-yards out to tie the game 6-6 with six minutes left in the first quarter. Chapman and Scott V combined for 130 yards on 29 carries.
Again the Lancers moved down the field with relative ease before Casillas took it in himself from a yard out to take a 13-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The highlight of the night came from Casillas on the next drive when he escaped pressure while chucking a touchdown pass 52-yards over the Wilson defense and into the hands of Cecil Xavier Smith for a 20-6 lead.
The Bruins took advantage of a fumble recovered by Kameron Lynn, and Scott V converted the turnover into a touchdown that got Wilson as close as they would be all night at 20-13 with a little over four minutes left until halftime.
Lakewood would answer that score seven plays later when Casillas found Caleb Tafua for a 50-yard touchdown that made it 27-13 at the break.
While the Lancers “Red Swarm” defense pitched a shutout in the second half, Casillas threw another touchdown pass to Tafua and Charles Write scored late to put the game away. Tafua finished with 77 yards and two scores on four catches.
Wilson quarterbacks Mack Cooper and Zer Maldonado both had long touchdown passes late in the game.
The game got chippy down the stretch, and Utupo called a timeout late to calm his team down and see the game out without incident.
“We have to lean on our senior leadership and they have to step up when the emotions start to get the best of us,” Utupo said after the game. “We rely on our captains to get things under control, and our coaching staff on the sideline, so we have to clean that up if you want to make any type of noise this time of year.”
Lakewood lost in the CIF Southern Section Division 8 championship game last year, and wants to use that experience to take the final step this season.
“Postseason play is our ultimate goal,” Utupo said. “We need to bring championships to Lakewood. We’re long overdue here. We have the talent and the coaching staff to get it done. But we stand in our own way. If we don’t control our emotions this time of the year, we’re going to beat ourselves.”