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Plenty of hope for Lakewood, despite loss
LAKEWOOD Utilizing 24 players with 20 boys out for either injury or eligibility issues, the Lakewood Cougars put up an excellent fight against Lynden Christian, falling 25-14. The Aug. 31 game took place under the lights of Cougar Stadium as the home team showed theyre going to be tough all season.
After one quarter it appeared as though the missing players might doom Lakewood entirely. Coach Dan Teeter had to rely on his number two running back, receiver, and quarterback just to put together a group of lineman. The makeshift offensive and defensive line units were unable to hold their ground against their larger foes. Lynden kept the ball on the ground almost exclusively grinding out yard after precious yard through the teeth of the defense. At the 12-minute mark Lynden led 12-0, a number which aptly demonstrated their domination of possession and field position.
As the second quarter got underway the Lakewood faithful were looking for reason to cheer. They got it in the form of a huge defensive play when Quincy Robinson recovered a Lynden fumble and returned it for a touchdown. Robinson stepped into the right place at the right time just as Andrew Campbell sacked the Lynden quarterback on a rare passing attempt. Campbell lowered his shoulder and popped the ball up into the waiting hands of Robinson who took only a moment to gather the gift and race 35 yards untouched in the direction of the end-zone. A botched extra point saw the score remain 12-6 in favor of Lynden.
Lynden took the failed pass attempt as a sign that they should stick to their guns. They went back to work on the ground and steadily advanced down the field. Facing a critical fourth-and- two on the Lakewood 5-yard line, Lynden elected to go for it instead of kicking a field goal. The plan worked and they got a first down inside the 2-yard line. From that point, they punched the ball in again for another score to lead 18-6.
As the halftime whistle sounded Lakewood looked to be in big trouble. They had yet to prove they could stop the run and Lyndens tricky wing-t style offense continued to rack up yards.
The third quarter went the same way for Lakewood. Their smaller line, many of whom were playing both sides of the ball, appeared exhausted. Lynden chewed up huge gains with every rush attempt and punched in another short touchdown moments into the fourth period.
To add injury to insult, starting quarterback Jay Wettlaufer tweaked an ankle and needed assistance along the sideline. His absence made room for freshman Justin Lane to take his first varsity snaps. If Lane was nervous at all, he did not show it and immediately stepped into the fray with a commanding presence. Suddenly the Lakewood offense began to move as Lane demonstrated an impressive arm zipping the football to his receivers on slant routes.
Lanes initial drive stalled due to a dropped third-down pass but the difference in swagger was apparent for the whole offense. The next time Lakewood got the ball Lane was winging it out to sure-handed receiver Marcus Harkins with the confidence of a seasoned vet.
Driving the length of the field, Lane threw what appeared to be a seven yard touchdown strike that was ruled out due to an illegal formation penalty. Luck came through for the Cougars on fourth and goal from the seven yard line as a deflected pass fell into the arms of a Lakewood receiver for a touchdown. A successful two-point conversion brought the score to within 25-14 with less than three minutes remaining.
Lakewood attempted an onside kick but it was recovered by Lynden. The Lakewood defense showed signs of life as they held Lynden to negative two yards on the drive and forced a punt.
As the offense took the field again, they were up against the clock as well as the defense. Several completions in a row, including an impressive snag by Harkins on a go-route moved the ball into Lynden territory, but a personal foul call moved the Cougars back. Lakewood would come no closer and Lynden held on for victory.
Loss notwithstanding, second-year head coach Dan Teeter has brought a new enthusiasm and accountability to the Lakewood program as he seeks to build it up to local prominence.
Im proud of the battle we put up tonight, said Teeter, The young kids playing got more experience and gave a great effort. We have to get everybody to commit to the team not just during the season but the offseason as well. I see progress for a lot of the first year players.
Better days may be forthcoming with the return of key players. Fill-in quarterback Justin Lane saw hope for the team.
I got in there with full confidence, he said. And you could see by the way we ended strong that we will have a chance to win every game.
Lakewoods next opponent is Squalicum on Sept. 7 in Bellingham.