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Wildcats pounce on Lakeland errors

If the Lakeland High football team had been at full strength Monday night, it might well have beaten visiting Great Bridge instead of losing 22-13. The outcome could also have been different if the Cavaliers hadn’t muffed potential interceptions or committed a dozen penalties for 75 yards.

Lakeland coach Glenwood Ferebee could look back at numerous spots throughout the Southeastern District contest where a little more execution or discipline could have put his team on top to stay.

“We left points out there and we played behind the sticks,” Ferebee said, referring to his team’s penalty woes. “Then, to have those three guys on the sideline, that was tough.”

The three in question were starters Dontarius Boone, Asaad Graham and Jordan Patrick. The seniors served one-game suspensions for an unspecified discipline violation and it was hard to imagine they wouldn’t have made the difference against a Great Bridge team that didn’t score an offensive touchdown.

“What made their situation so bad was that we had just talked about (behavior) the day before they got in trouble,” said Ferebee, whose team is 1-1 overall and in district play and hosts Maury on Friday. “You wonder if they’re even listening to what you’re saying, but I won’t sacrifice discipline for the sake of winning.”

He almost didn’t have to sacrifice anything, for the Cavaliers trailed just 15-13 with three minutes to play in the third quarter when Jake Estienne lined up for a 37-yard field goal attempt to put them in the lead. The boot sailed wide left, but Lakeland took control again five minutes later when Jaquan Demiel intercepted a Trey Bray pass.

Rufus Artis ran four consecutive times to bring the ball out to the Cavaliers’ 43-yard line. However, quarterback Neil McKoy was hit by Patrick Gibson and fumbled on the next play, Laron Corbin returning the ball 40 yards for a touchdown. Aric Speziale’s extra point closed the scoring with seven minutes to play.

McKoy completed 13-of-30 passes for 92 yards. He had one pass intercepted. Tyrece Shepherd, who missed last week’s game because of a district suspension remaining from last season, caught a game-high five passes for 55 yards. Cedric Johnson led the Cavaliers in rushing with 57 yards in five carries, twice returning from leg injuries to rejoin the fray.

Great Bridge opened the scoring three minutes into the game when a punt snap cleared Artis’ hands and he recovered the ball in the end zone, giving the Wildcats a safety.

Lakeland responded two minutes later. Freshman Tyquan Lewis forced Great Bridge receiver Logan Heastie to fumble after a reception and Shepherd returned the ball 51 yards for a touchdown. Estienne’s extra point gave Lakeland a 7-2 lead.

Great Bridge (2-0, 2-0) regained the lead a minute into the second quarter when Brad Hudson threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Bray. Hudson attempted a conversion run, but the play failed and he hurt his knee on the effort. He didn’t return to the game.

The Wildcats pushed their lead to 14-7 three minutes into the second quarter. Safety Marc Maier intercepted a McKoy pass and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown. The point after made the score 15-7 for Great Bridge.

Lakeland pulled within 15-13 four minutes after halftime. Johnson ran four consecutive times for 38 yards, scoring on a 21-yard sweep to the left. McKoy’s pass attempt on the conversion fell incomplete.

A few bystanders booed and heckled McKoy late in the game, but Ferebee said the senior is being asked to carry too much of Lakeland’s load.

“It’s his first season playing quarterback and I think the pressure and magnitude of the game got to him a little bit,” said the coach, who was once a star signal-caller at Virginia Beach’s Green Run High. “As coaches, we can’t have it all be on his shoulders. We have to put him in positions to succeed.”

One area Lakeland was surprisingly successful in was the running game. The Cavaliers managed only 74 yards on the ground but they barely ran at all in the first half, before Great Bridge proved susceptible to sweeps after halftime. Lakeland runs a spread offense, one based primarily on a passing attack.

“I wish we’d come out and run the football to begin with,” said Ferebee, who had believed his team could do so on the Wildcats after watching video of their scrimmage with Kempsville and their game with Deep Creek. “We hadn’t practiced lining up and going out of the `I’, but after halftime we decided to go with it anyway. Then we started getting penalties and dropping balls and you can’t run when it’s third-and-10.”