Football – Special Teams Touchdowns Propel Unbeaten Lakewood Past Lacey
LACEY TOWNSHIP — He’s stands just 5-foot-8 and weights 165 pounds, but Lakewood senior Honore Richardson plays big when it matters most.
“We call him Ant Man,” said Lakewood head coach L.J. Clark. “He’s a superhero.”
Nursing an injured ankle, Richardson made two huge plays on Saturday afternoon to help the Piners remain undefeated. His 72-yard punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter tied the score, and his clutch catch on fourth down late in the game set up the winning touchdown as Lakewood knocked off Lacey, 30-22, in a down-to-the-wire Shore Conference Class B South game.
The Piners (4-0, 4-0) rallied with 14 points in the final three minutes to remain tied for the division lead with Point Boro and Barnegat. Richardson’s punt return touchdown tied the score at 22, and his 28-yard reception down to the 5-yard line on fourth-and-six set up junior quarterback Zyhier Jones for the go-ahead touchdown run with under a minute left.
“All I was thinking was we needed a big play,” Richardson said. “Coach kept saying we needed someone to step up and I wanted to be that man.”
Trailing 14-8 at halftime, Lakewood turned up the intensity in the second half to slow down Lacey’s running game. Junior defensive lineman Josh Lezin made his presence felt by living in the Lions backfield over the final two quarters. His biggest play, however, was a blocked punt in the third quarter that senior Adi Palmer scooped up and returned 38 yards for a touchdown.
“Josh Lezin is the best player no one knows about,” Clark said.
Meanwhile, Jones continued his torrid start to the season by rushing for 143 yards on 17 carries and throwing for 130 yards and a touchdown. Jones has accounted for 14 touchdowns in four games this season.
Lacey (3-2, 2-2) had its running game going early behind a stout offensive line and junior running back Jason Giresi, who finished with 158 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries. The Lions struck first on a 14-play, 83-yard drive that spanned 6:56 and crossed over into the second quarter. It was a classic Lacey drive with just one play going for over 10 yards, but consistently gaining four and five yards a play. Junior quarterback Coleton Klaus finished off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run on a quarterback sneak eight seconds into the second quarter.
Lakewood came right back to take an 8-7 lead with a five-play, 73-yard drive. A 20-yard run by Jones moved the ball near midfield, and a 37-yard catch by Palmer on a jump-ball put the Piners at the Lacey 7-yard line. Two plays later, Jones tossed a four-yard touchdown pass to Donte Morris. Lakewood converted the two-point conversion with a Jones passing to Khari Jenkins.
A long kick return gave Lacey great field position at the Lakewood 46-yard line, and the Lions needed just four plays to retake the lead. An 11-yard run by Giresi on first down set up his own 27-yard touchdown run on third-and-two for a 14-8 lead which his team held into halftime.
Lakewood went three-and-out to begin the second half, but its defense and special teams would swing the momentum back in its favor. After halting a Lacey drive at the plus-32-yard line, Lezin burst through the line and past the protection group to block the punt and send it caroming across midfield. Palmer snatched it at the 38-yard line and raced into the end zone. Jones ran in the conversion to give Lakewood a 16-14 lead.
“At halftime I said to him ‘I haven’t heard your name called once’,” Clark said about challenging Lezin during the break. “He gave me an empty stare, not disrespectful, but like ‘alright coach, I got you’. He was in the backfield the whole second half and blocked a punt.”
Lacey would take a 22-16 lead in the fourth quarter with a 10-play, 75-yard drive. The key play was Klaus connecting with senior John Grosjean for 32 yards down to the Lakewood 28-yard line. Klaus polished off the drive with another three-yard quarterback sneak, then tossed the two-point conversion to senior tight end Paul Zebrowski for a six-point lead with 6:12 left in the game.
Lakewood then went three-and-out, and the way Lacey’s running game was moving the ball it looked like the Piners perfect start to the season was going to come to an end.
“I called timeout with about six minutes left in the game and said to them, ‘no one knows adversity like you guys, so let’s handle our business’,” Clark said. “In years past we would have been in panic mode, but not one time did these kids panic. The fight level of our kids is amazing.”
Lakewood responded and stopped Lacey on three straight plays and forced the punt that Richardson returned for the tying touchdown. He started left, bounced off a tackle and made a break for the visiting sideline where he picked up a few blocks to reach the end zone. The two-point conversion pass failed, leaving the game tied at 22 with 3:02 to play.
On the next series, Zion Tinnery intercepted Klaus at the Lacey 37-yard line to set up the winning drive. A seven-yard pass to Jenkins on first down got the ball rolling, but a fumbled exchange on second down, a false start and an incomplete pass brought up fourth-and-six from the 33-yard line. Jones looked over the middle and found a wide-open Richardson, who hauled in the on-target throw for 28 yards and a first-and-goal at the 5-yard line.
“Coach said Honore was going to be wide open and he was,” Jones said. The safety went over to my brother, Jyhier, I got (Honore) the ball and he made a big play for us.”
Jones scored on the next play and Jenkins ran in the conversion for a 30-22 lead with 47 seconds left in regulation. After Lacey gained 20 yards on a Klaus pass to senior Chase Stephensen, Jones iced the game with an interception and 34-yard return down to the 7-yard line. The Piners took a knee and left Lacey with a 4-0 record.
“We only had 28 players dressed, but we all came ready to play,” Jones said. “We knew it was a big game for us.”
The win sets up a battle of unbeatens next week when Lakewood visits Point Boro (5-0, 4-0). The Piners and Panthers shared the Class B South title last season thanks to Point Boro’s 14-13 win in Week 9. Point Boro has won the last three meetings.
“That’s a big one for us,” Jones said. “We’ll be ready.”
“I have a lot of respect for Point Boro,” Clark said. “They play hard and their coach does a great job. You want that game, two undefeated teams to prove it on the field. You can’t ask for anything more.”
Lakewood 30, Lacey 22
Lakewood (4-0, 4-0) 0 8 8 14 — 30
Lacey (3-2, 2-2) 0 14 0 8 — 22
Lac — Coleton Klaus 3-yard run (Justin Frazee kick)
Lake — Zyhier Jones 4-yard pass to Donte Morris (Zyhier Jones to Khari Jenkins)
Lac — Jason Giresi 27-yard run (Justin Frazee kick)
Lake — Adi Palmer 38-yard blocked punt return (Zyhier Jones run)
Lac — Coleton Klaus 3-yard run (Coleton Klaus to Paul Zebrowski)
Lake — Honore Richardson 72-yard punt return (pass failed)
Lake — Zyhier Jones 5-yard run (Khari Jenkins run)
RUSHING — Lake: Zyhier Jones 17-143, Honore Richardson 3-(-1); Lac: Jason Giresi 32-158, Coleton Klaus 7-26, John Grosjean 2-6.
PASSING — Lake: Zyhier Jones 10-22-0 130; Lac: Coleton Klaus 5-10-2 74, John Grosjean 0-1-0 0.
RECEIVING — Lake: Honore Richardson 5-70, Khari Jenkins 3-19, Adi Palmer 1-37, Donte Morris 1-4; Lac: Chase Stephensen 2-35, John Grosjean 1-32, Bryan Scalia 1-4, Jason Giresi 1-3.
Interception — Lake: Zion Tinnery 1-0, Zyhier Jones 1-34.
Football editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.