St. Petersburg, FL – As the palm trees gently swayed and the sun glistened on a beautiful February afternoon in the Lakewood Neighborhood of St. Petersburg, screams of pain and drops of sweat were flying uncontrollably throughout the field house that contained over 30 Varsity Lakewood Football players.
Head Coach Corey Moore and his assistants barking out instructions with his young men separated by offense and defense yet encircled around him so that he could see the whites of their eyes, and could hear the gasping for air during yet another Plyometric drill. These my friends, are the sounds of Spring Football. No bells and whistles (aside from Moore’s), no fancy spatted shoes, or jet black uniforms with the Gold ‘L’ on the side of the helmet. Just good old fashioned blood, sweat, and tears. As Moore paced feverishly back-and-forth incessantly encouraging his boys to push themselves beyond their comfort levels one thing became crystal clear to me. Lakewood intends on proving to their Hillsborough County neighbors that this is no longer a game. This is a way of life. This is “Hollywood High” as it’s affectionately known.
The Spartans have shared a district with reigning 3A State Champions Jefferson, Spoto, and Blake for the past two seasons finishing runners-up twice. This year, their newly-minted schedule sees even more Hills Co. competition. Jefferson is no longer, but Spoto and Blake remain. Add Robinson, Jesuit, Middleton, and Lennard to Pinellas County foes Dunedin and Gibbs and you’ve got yourself the largest district (8-5A) in the Tampa Bay Area.
“Bringing home a District Championship would mean we’ve arrived,” said Junior WR/CB Javaris Little. “Coach Moore talks about it everyday. It’s about winning the District and making it to the playoffs.”
Although some of the veteran leadership that has anchored the Spartans through their three consecutive appearances in the playoffs is gone, their best streak since 1982 is apparently in no shape or form ready to be retired. A bevy of Freshmen and Sophomores (who look like they’re already Junior and Seniors in size) quickly stood up upon Moore’s challenge that the best underclassman Wide Receiver in Pinellas resides in the northern half. They were ready to strap up right on the spot. Wide Receivers Javaris Little (’12), Rodney Adams (’13), Shaquille Griffen (’13), Twin Brother Shaquem Griffen (’13) along with Freshman QB Jacqui Ellison could not wait to express their opinions about the upcoming season.
When asked point blank whouch would they prefer, a district with all Pinellas teams, or all Hillsborough teams, the answer was unanimous. They clearly want a piece of the boys across the Bay. No offense to their home county of course, it’s just that’s the way they want it. Lakewood has been labeled “Hollywood High” for their theatrics a la “The U”, but haven’t always been able to deliver on all that swag. For instance, nobody saw them jumping out to a 20-0 lead against Pasco in the 1st Rd of the Playoffs last year. What was supposed to be one of the biggest upsets in the state turned into another one-and-done playoff run.
Coach Moore has the fellas thinking a little more level-headed these days. Wide Receiver Rodney Adams pretty much summed up the new approach as poignantly as possible. “No jerseys to school on Friday’s. Put on the collared shirt and tie; it’s business.”