Our deconstruction of the potential construction for the fall continues as we take a summer trip to the “Lakes” aka Lakeland, Lake Wales, and Lakewood. All three squads finished 12-1 last season, and all three have more questions surrounding them than actual knowledge at the moment. Therefore today’s K-W-L may look *slightly* different than the previous ones.
We know that the Dreadnaughts went 12-1 last season, not suffering their first loss until the regional finals against Armwood. We know that Lakeland was on cruise control until that previous week when they were given all they could handle from Tampa Bay Tech in that regional semifinal, the only team to score more than 19 points on them besides Plant City in week four. We learned that the one-dimensional way of their offense (and rightfully so when you’ve got a guy like Bowman) caught up with them against an elite defense like Armwood.
We know that the regular season was “the more things change, the more they stay the same” as Lakeland absolutely destroyed their district competition winning by an average margin of 41-points, outscoring their district foes Plant City, Durant, Bloomingdale, Kathleen, and Strawberry Crest 228-25. We know that Bill Castle just wrapped up his 44th season with his 28th district championship, completing a three-year stretch with this senior class with a record of 37-2 with a state championship in 2018. We also know that Lakeland was a #1-seed and a #2-seed the other two years only to be knocked out.
We know that the last time Lakeland missed the playoffs (1992), people in their early-40’s in age were just starting high school themselves. We know that since 2004, the ‘Naughts have failed to win their district just 3 times, with Kissimmee Osceola, Ridge Community, and Kathleen to be the only teams to defeat them in that stretch.
Because we are HUGE believers in the philosophy of “things that are seen cannot be UNseen” or “you can’t stick the toothpaste back in the tube” we count the records that occurred on the field. Not the ones that were taken away MUCH later down the line. With that in mind, we know that it’s been a half-century since Lakeland has suffered a losing season. There are grandparents to players on the current roster that weren’t even born the last time it happened on the field.
We know that from 2004-2011, the ‘Naughts went on a run that is unrivaled around these parts. During that time, they went 108-6 (on the field) and won three state titles and six regional championships. Finally, we know that studs like Bowman, Graham, Garnett, Martin, Arian and Shawn Smith, Hall, and Anglin are all gone to graduation.
So that begs the question(s)—who is under center this fall? Will it be Mason Martin? Who is the *next* Demarckus Bowman? What does the trenches look like, and who is responsible for harassing opposing quarterbacks? Also–who is on the schedule besides their district and George Jenkins? We know that is always a lesson in “pick random teams from Broward and Dade” and sometimes works for the better, and sometimes not. Most importantly–is this an actual rebuild for Lakeland? Tons of stuff to learn about the Dreadnaughts as the summer progresses.
We know that up until the regional finals, it was looking like a historical run for the Highlanders. In fact, we know that Lake Wales outscored their first-5 opponents (Kathleen, Ridge Community, Haines City, Mulberry, and Clewiston) to the tune of 319-14. We know they finished the regular season winning by an average of 6 touchdowns per game with an average score of 49-7. We also know that they beat their six Polk County opponents by an average score of 60-3.
We know that HC Tavarius Williams has guided his squad to a 22-3 record the last two seasons combined. As he starts his 7th season on the job, we know his record at the school is now at 41-23. We also know that Lake Wales has only had two losing seasons since 2006. We know that last seasons’ 12-win total was just the fourth time in the near 100 years of existence that they got to that mark.
We talked about the offensive prowess, so we know about that, but we also know that between QB Eric Williams and RB Johnny Richardson, those two were responsible for 62 of the 68 touchdowns scored on offense. Those two have since graduated. We also know that their top four receivers had graduated and that studs Gervon Dexter, Joel Hadley, and DeAngelo Sapp are gone. Those three combined for nearly 400 tackles, 78tfl’s, and 34 sacks.
We also know that the fearsome-foursome of Marquavion Brown, Ronan McDonald, Earnest Kirkland, and Nelson Zentero Jr. are all back, and those four combined for 451 tackles, 74tfl’s, and 35 sacks.
What we’d like to know about Lake Wales is whether or not their schedule is the reverse of last season, which could be a pretty big deal while transitioning to an entirely new set of playmakers on offense. What we’d like to know if it’s going to be Isaiah Jordan at QB, who performed quite well in mop-up duties last season, and if it’s going to be Marquish Seabon in the backfield behind him. If we know those to be true, we may learn that this Lake Wales team is in much better shape (albeit not as good as last season) than what appears.
We know that the Spartans enjoyed their best season in school history in 2019. We know that even though they lost a heartbreaker to Booker T. Washington in the state semifinals 9-7, they were (quietly we may add) one of the best teams this area has seen in two decades if you were paying attention. We also saw and learned that Lakewood’s speed was in fact, Dade County-like when matched-up against the eventual Class 4A state champions from Dade–something that WE NEVER say (with conviction at least) when the two metro areas meet at that stage.
We know that Lakewood’s Defense was historically good. Their first four games were shutouts, while they scored 195 points against the likes of St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park, Gibbs, and Boca Ciega. We know they were scored on in only 4 games this season, with Dunbar scoring 24 points as the high-water mark.
We know that the Spartans outscored their opponents during the regular season 378-67, and 419-83 if you’re counting the playoffs. We know their defense held 10 of their 13 opponents under 10 points including the loss to BTW. We know they outscored their Pinellas County foes 250-3 during the regular season. We know they gave up just SIXTEEN points in three games combined, but somehow couldn’t get it across Booker T’s goal-line in the end.
We know that HC Corey Moore is beginning his 13th season at the helm having missed the postseason just once in that time while winning four district championships.
We also know that the Spartans graduate 13 starters. They’ll return four on offense, and five on defense. We know they’ll have to replace their stud-under-center Deuce Spann, and that they’ll have to replace the majority of their trenches. We also know that Lakewood never lacks for a pool of talent to choose from in south county and within their feeder programs. Therefore we know that we can expect to see talent-for-days on that sideline, but…
What we want to know is who is going to be the next group of stars? Lakewood can boast one of the highest number of active NFL players IN THE NATION, therefore we can count on them to have something under the hood–even if we are formally questioning who it will be. We also want to know if their schedule (which it “appears” to be but we await confirmation) is a reverse of last season, because, like Lake Wales, they’ll have some difficulty this time around, but it’s still a schedule conducive to success. All of that won’t be learned until many MANY months from now, but it’s fun to start the process!
TOMORROW’S TEAMS INCLUDE: Venice, Palmetto, and Sarasota-Riverview, so join us as we head from the lakes to the Gulf Coast and continue our summer journey!