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Football Lakewood

Football: Lakewood Will Visit King In CIF-SS Division 7 Playoffs

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.

If you ask anyone close to the Lakewood football program about the 2022 playoff run they will end the conversation by mentioning the disappointment after losing the CIF Southern Section Division 8 championship game at home.

The Lancers will get a chance to take care of that unfinished business in Division 7 this year. Lakewood (5-5) will visit Martin Luther King High School in the first round on Friday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Riverside.

“This is our revenge story,” Lakewood linebacker EJ Baltazar said. “We have to stay together and make sure we’re all on the same page in practice and the game. We can’t blame each other or take plays off. We have to stay aggressive.”

Lakewood finished the season with two dominant wins over Wilson and Compton to secure third place in the Moore League and the automatic bid.

“It’s a whole new season,” Lakewood coach Justin Utupo said. “A lot of our young guys rose to the occasion last year, but our senior leadership took over. We’re going to continue to lean on our sophomores but also our veteran leaders need to make plays while keeping everyone composed and under control.”

King (6-4) finished third in the Big West League after losing to Murrieta Mesa in the regular season finale. The Wolves won three of their last four games to reach the postseason for the second consecutive season.

“They’re well coached and they have some playmakers on offense,” Utupo said. “They have talent at multiple positions that can hurt us. We have to win our one-on-one matchups one play at a time.”

Utupo added that King sophomore receiver Blake Bowen and senior tight end Sam Green really stood out in the film he and his coaches got on Sunday morning. Bowen has over 1,100 all-purpose yards with 10 touchdowns this season, according to MaxPreps.

The King defense is holding opponents to an average of 19 points per game this season. Junior Andrew Dixon leads the team with 5.6 tackles per game.

Utupo said he’s excited that his team moved up a division this year.

“We pride ourselves in being able to compete with anybody,” Utupo said. “As a program, we want to see Lakewood continue to move forward. Whatever division we’re in, the goal is a championship.”

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By The562 Network Inc

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.