Win over Sultan on senior night pits Lakewood against Burlington

LAKEWOOD — The Cougars' seniors didn't disappoint in their last home game of the season.

Scoring a few sneaky goals, Lakewood turned away Sultan 3-1 April 29 and clinched a spot for a play-in game to the District 1 tournament.

"It wasn't the way we wanted to win, but the guys played hard and our seniors really led the way for us," said Lakewood manager Bryce Barker.

Ironically, a win without their best effort shows just how far this team has come since opening the season 0-4.

"I didn't think we would have gotten to districts this year," Barker said. "That was pretty much the consensus opinion going into the season, that we'd have to improve a lot to get to that level."

Helping the Cougars get to such a level against Sultan were three seniors scoring a goal each, starting with Taylor Fellows. The Cougars had a pair of scoring opportunities early on, but both shots were sent back by the crossbar.

Sultan went onto the scoreboard first, in the 27th minute on the soccer equivalent to a Texas-leaguer from about 40 yards out that caught keeper Sam Johnston off his line.

But the Cougars responded with the equalizer just before halftime. In the 49th minute, Fellows received a through ball from Joseph Hawkins that squeaked past the Sultan defense, leaving a one-on-one with the keeper.

Hawkins then put the Cougars ahead for good in the 45th minute on a shot from 18 yards out that must have been hidden from the goalie behind a mob of Turks defenders. The low shot was hit just hard enough to beat the keeper on the near side.

Meanwhile, Johnston kept the Turks off the board in the second half with a couple of challenging saves.

"Sam stops a lot for us," said senior defender Jeremy Rose. "It's takes a lot of pressure off the defense because we don't have to try and block every shot, so we stop stabbing."

Johnston, had hardly stepped on a pitch before this season, can take as much credit as any Cougar for helping Lakewood turn around to win 6 of its last 11 matches.

Scoring the final goal was Mason Brisben on a set piece from 30 yards out that slid through the Sultan defense and curled far post in the 73rd minute.

The win puts Lakewood against Burlington-Edison May 8 in a winner-to-district match. The Tigers defeated the Cougars 5-1 to kickoff the season March 16.

"I'm excited to get another crack at them," Barker said. "I don't think we put our best team out there the first time. We didn't have Sam or Joseph, but we'll see, they've probably face tougher competition than us throughout the season."

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