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Football Lakewood

CIF Football: Lakewood Drops Playoff Opener At King

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.

Next to nothing went right for Lakewood in its CIF Southern Section Division 7 playoff opener on Friday at Riverside King High School.

The Lancers started slowly, ended up on the wrong side of some close plays and before they knew it they were chasing a game they should’ve been leading. King was more than willing to take any and all opportunities to pour it on in the second half during a 35-6 win.

“It was just off,” Lakewood coach Justin Utupo said of how the game went. “As a program we have to learn from (that game) because we just have a to find a way to get it done when things aren’t going our way at the time.”

King scored twice in the second quarter to take a 14-0 lead into halftime, and then scored again on the first possession of the third quarter to really take the wind out of the Lancers’ sails. King receiver Blake Bowen was the star of the night with over 100 all-purpose yards, one receiving touchdown and one rushing touchdown.

Lakewood struggled to find any consistency on offense while the King defensive front was able to wreak havoc in the Lancers backfield. Lancers quarterback Kade Casillas was sacked six times, and the visitors were held to just five first downs before scoring in the third quarter.

“We didn’t help our defense, and you’re not going to win playoff games with six points,” Utupo said of his offense. “King did a hell of a job, they kept two high safeties and we couldn’t get the ball to our playmakers.”

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Lakewood looked like it was driving for the opening score on its first possession, but when Casillas took a 3rd down carry into the King red zone, the play was called back due to a holding penalty. The Lancers would eventually turn the ball over on downs.

“We talked about starting fast but some penalties slowed us down on the first two drives and we just couldn’t find a way to get points in the first quarter,” Utupo said.

The two teams went to the second half scoreless after King missed a field goal that was set up by an interception.

King started feeding Bowen on their first drive of the second quarter, and the 6’2″ sophomore pulled down a one-handed touchdown catch on a nice throw from quarterback Joshua Harper to take the lead.

When a tipped Casillas pass fell into the hands of King linebacker Kaleo Browne, it would be Browne hauling in a touchdown pass with less than 30 seconds left in the half to make it 14-0 King.

The Wolves maintained that momentum and scored on its first two possessions of the second half to effectively put the game away. Harper completed 14 of his 17 pass attempts for 127 yards and three touchdowns. He was only sacked twice and the Lancers defense didn’t force a turnover after forcing 21 in the regular season.

Lakewood scored late in the third when Casillas hit tight end Caleb Tafua for a 10-yard score. Tafua had four catches for 63 yards. Casillas was 10-for-21 for 155 yards, two interceptions and that touchdown.

“I told the seniors (after the game) they have nothing to hang their heads about because they truly left their mark on this program,” Utupo said.

Lakewood reached the Division 8 championship game last year.

VIDEO: Lakewood vs. King, CIF Football
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.