A large crowd was on hand last night at Bartow Memorial Stadium as the Bartow High School Yellow Jacket football team hosted the Lake Region Thunder. The non-district contest was played in humid conditions, but the rain clouds stayed away. The points were there in abundance as Bartow rolled to a 44-14 win.
The visitors opened with a long drive, carried mostly through the ground game, switching sides of the field on successive plays and keeping the defense anchored. Lake Region hustled to a first and goal with the runner fumbling at the 3 on first down. An alert teammate jumped on it to keep the drive alive.
Two plays later, Lake Region capped their 15-play drive with a touchdown run with the score coming with 3:45 to play in the first. The extra point was kicked to give Lake Region a 7-0 lead. A short kickoff was taken by Bartow and Lake Region w tagged with a personal foul. Bartow set up shop at the 47 and opened with a 27-yard gain when Dimitri Leverett faked to Tyreese Cruz and ran off right tackle. Leverett attempted to throw to Devon McCoy, but the ball was tipped by a defender and fell incomplete. A Bartow holding call pushed back a big gainer, but successive runs by Leverett got the required first down. Cruz carried to within the 5, but the defense stiffened. Facing third and long, Bartow drove to the 1, but retreated when called for an illegal shift. Leverett wasted little in striking, finding Tre Jordan all alone in the corner of the end zone. With 14 seconds to play in the quarter, Alex Montes kicked it true and the game was tied at 7-7.
Lake Region would get the ball for the second time and run one play before the quarter ended. The remaining downs were sandwiched between a delay of game and Lake Region would offer the first punt of the game. The short kick bounced at midfield and rolled back to give Bartow the ball just 49 yards from a second score.
Bartow endured back to back penalties after running plays and looked at first and 22. Cruz gained 12 and then took a pitch off right tackle for what appeared to be a first down at the 35. A holding call, Bartow’s third penalty of the possession, made it second and very long. Dwayne Daughtry took a pitch but could gain one. Leverett’s pass to Matt Martin was batted down by a defender and Bartow punted the ball away. Lake Region set up at the 30 aft an illegal substitution penalty. The Thunder kept it on the ground, chewing up yardage and the clock. Lake Region crossed the midfield stripe, but the drive stalled. Facing a third and short, Bartow’s defense charged through and snuffed the runner for a loss. It forced Lake Region to punt.
Bartow’s drive opened with Cruz getting 3, then TroyJones blasted through for 11 and a first down. Leverett faked to Cruz and kept it, breaking tackle after tackle en route to a 47 yard gain. Leverett was caught in the backfield on first and goal, but a Thunder defender was called for a blow to the head. Leverett carried to the 1, then handed off to Daughtry to let him finish the job. Montes booted the extra point as Bartow took their first lead at 14-7 with 2:04 to go in the half.
Lake Region started mixing an occasional pass within their running plays, hoping to tie before the half. The hopes were squashed with a big sack by Devin Hogan on the Lake Region quarterback. One play later, the clock was set at zeroes and Bartow took a 14-7 lead into the locker room.
The halftime opened with a special celebration commemorating the undefeated 1978 state champion Yellow Jacket team as 14 members of the squad were introduced. The bands of the two schools participated in halftime entertainment to set the stage for the final two quarters.
Aided by the 47 yard scamper, Leverett had tallied more than 100 yards on the ground, a topic of convention in the visitors locker room. Bartow was prepared to accept the kick, but the short kick was fumbled and a Lake Region player came up with it. Bartow’s defense was called into action and allowed no yards. Ronald Robinson deliver a crushing stop on third down to set up a punt. The kick rolled dread about 20 yards downfield and Bartow claimed the pigskin with 9:33 to play in the third. Leverett and Cruz carried to set up short on third, but a false start made it third and long. Leverett’s pass to Martin was behind the receiver and incomplete and Martin punted. Lake Region needed one play. The handoff to the running back was the right choice as the runner found a hole off right tackle and raced untouched into the end zone 45yards away. The extra point to tie came at 7:45.
The short kick was handled with perfection and the Bartow offense was back in business. After some short gains and an offensive holding call, Bartow found themselves at midfield. Leverett dropped back to pass, but the Thunder secondary had all receivers covered like a blanket. Leverett waited, then took off running up the far side of the field. After one missed tackle, Leverett kicked it into high gear and outran the chasing defenders for a Bartow score. The 51-yard TD was followed by Montes’ third extra point. Bartow led 21-14 with 5:28 to go in the third.
Bartow’s defense was inspired and soon the crowd rose to its feet to support the defenders. A delay of game penalty pushed Lake Region back and the offense was rattled with a fumbled pitch at the 10. It set up fourth and 20. As the Thunder punter prepared to receive the snap, the ball rolled through his legs and put of the end zone, adding two more points for Bartow via the safety, putti the score at 23-14.
The pooch kick was covered at the 38, bringing the Jacket offense onto the field to attempt to add to the 9-point lead. An incomplete pass was followed by another offensive penalty. Troy Jones got the chance to carry the ball and took advantage, darting on a 39-yard gain and getting Bartow to the 4. Cruz banged over one play later and the score board changed to 30 on the Montes kick with 2:44 to play as Jones put the snap down for his kicker.
The home crowd was entertained by the cheer leading staff throughout the game, especially after a score. A cheerleader does push-ups equal in amount to the score and the squad got its workout on this night.
The defense continued its gang tackling ways, holding Lake Region to short gains. Keyshawn Martin stepped up to bring down a potential big gainer, setting up a third down as the crowd came to life. The Jackets stopped another run and a punting situation with time running down in the quarter. Jordan caught the kick at the 40 and scampered down the near sideline for a 60-yard return. The third Jacket touchdown of the third quarter brought Montes out to stretch the lead to 37-14 with 16 seconds to play in the third.
When the quarter ended, Bartow had tacked on 23 points in the third quarter, the most since a 21 point fourth quarter on Sept. 17, 2010.
After a Lake Region possession, it was déjà vu. Jordan took the punt at the 40 and went 60 yards the other way for another special teams score with 9:05 to go. Montes notched his seventh extra point of the night, the Jackets took a 44-14 advantage and the pushup total hit 176 for the night. Fortunately, the cheerleaders were taking turns.
Next week, Bartow remains home with a contest against George Jenkins Friday at Bartow Memorial Stadium.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m.