Lakeland loses to Norcom

Published 12:24 am Sunday, November 13, 2011

Lakeland’s Raekwon Johnson rushed for 173 yards and two touchdowns as the Cavaliers faced Norcom in the first round of the Eastern Region Playoffs Saturday night in Portsmouth. Norcom beat the Cavaliers 46-28.

PORTSMOUTH — With its first trip to the Eastern Region playoffs, Lakeland learned it can play postseason football.

Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, Norcom led 33-0 early in the third quarter before the lesson began to sink in. Despite a furious Lakeland rally, with four Cavalier touchdowns in a span of 7:58 in the third period, the Greyhounds advanced to the regional semifinals with a 46-28 win.

Norcom, the No. 4 seed in the region, scored four touchdowns and forced four Lakeland turnovers in the opening half, starting barely over two minutes into the game — and that was with Lakeland receiving the opening kickoff.

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The Greyhounds needed only four plays covering 30 yards to gain a 6-0 lead 2:27 into the contest.

Norcom marched from its own 16-yard line with its next possession. Defensive end Kyle Jones’s sack for a 22-yard loss forced Norcom into what looked like it would be a key Cavalier hold even as it was still early in the game.

Instead, on 3rd-and-19 from the Cavalier 32, Greyhound wide receiver Isaac White pulled down a lobbed pass near the front, left corner of the end zone and danced into the end zone between two Cavalier defenders for a touchdown.

With a big punt return, Norcom took over on the Lakeland 14 and scored two running plays later for a 20-0 lead with 1:35 left in the first period.

The next Lakeland possession ended with Norcom’s second interception of a Miles Goodman pass.

Norcom intercepted a pass by Cavalier quarterback/running back Raekwon Johnson later in the second period. The next Lakeland possession ended after two plays when Deonte Demiel caught a screen pass and fumbled.

The fumble gave the Greyhounds the ball inside Cavalier territory. The Greyhounds scored on a 21-yard touchdown pass, coming on a 4th-and-15 play, and took their 26-0 lead to halftime.

The first few seconds of the second half got worse for Lakeland in its debut into the Group AAA postseason in their 16th season at the level.

The Greyhounds returned the kickoff 70 yards to the Cavalier 10. Tailback Chevelle Atkins sprinted into the end zone on the first snap for his second touchdown of the game and a 33-0 Greyhound lead.

Johnson and Antonio Jefferson lining up in the backfield beside Johnson at quarterback combined to lead Lakeland’s charge back into the game.

Johnson carried four times in a sudden five-play drive, finishing with a 25-yard touchdown run, to get the Cavs on the board with 9:03 left in the third period.

Lakeland forced a Norcom punt, but the punt never came. The Greyhound punter bobbled the snap and Antonio Perry tackled the punter for a 15-yard loss, setting up the Cavs on the Norcom 25.

Jefferson, normally a wide receiver but now a running back as Lakeland’s usually prolific passing game had to be largely scrapped after the turnovers in the first half, took the ball up the middle and dashed straight into the end zone on a 25-yard run. Lakeland trailed 33-14 with 7:37 to go in the third.

A Lakeland onsides kick backfired for a 50-yard kick return touchdown, negating the Cavalier touchdown seconds later.

The Cavs got it back with their next possession. Johnson and Jefferson covered all 63 yards with Jefferson scoring on a 6-yard run.

The momentum had completely changed. Defensive tackle Craig Taylor forced a Greyhound fumble with teammate Marche Everett recovering.

Seconds later, Johnson kept the ball, burst through the middle and raced untouched for a 41-yard touchdown run. Evan Worley’s fourth extra point of the night made it 39-28 Norcom with 1:05 left in the third.

From being run off the field, Lakeland earned the chance to get within a possession.

Norcom was driving deep into Lakeland territory early in the fourth period before a fumble and Jerrell Ralph recovering the ball for the Cavs on the Lakeland 7.

A couple plays into the next drive, Johnson was hit hard and was forced to the sideline for the next few snaps. Lakeland’s drive stalled and Norcom took over possession inside Lakeland territory.

Anaquan Peterson’s leaping interception on the goal line gave the Lakeland offense another chance at trimming the Greyhound lead down to a one-possession game.

The Cavs moved from their own 11-yard line to the Greyhound 45. On 4th-and-10 from there, Norcom held, forcing Johnson to scramble on a pass play and bringing him down short of the line Lakeland needed with 2:57 remaining.

Norcom added a 10-yard touchdown run on a 2nd down play and Lakeland out of timeouts with 0:54 remaining.

Johnson finished with 27 carries for 173 yards and two touchdowns. He was 5-for-10 passing for 31 yards. Jefferson rushed 13 times for 109 yards and two touchdowns.

The Cavaliers went from a 6-4 record in 2009 to a winless season last year and finish this season 7-4.