FELTON — Nothing was going to stand between the Lake Forest football team and a second straight Southern Division title.
Not even longtime South heavyweight Indian River.
Senior Ben Moore set the tone with a 43-yard touchdown run on Lake’s first possession and the Spartans ran away with a 34-14 victory over the visiting Indians Friday night that clinched the South championship and locked up an at-large berth into the Division II playoffs.
“I love football, playing out here with my brothers, and it feels really good just busting a team in the mouth,” said Moore, who scored again on a 1-yard TD run at the beginning of the second quarter to help Lake take a 14-0 lead. “The team, we all grew up playing football, we’ve worked hard all season and we’re going to continue working.”
Following Moore’s initial touchdown, IR (4-2 South, 4-5 overall) put together a long drive to the Lake 21 but fumbled the ball on a fourth-and-short play with Spartans senior Preston Sepulveda diving in for the recovery.
Seven plays later – one of which was a 50-yard rush from senior Trevon Martin – Lake doubled its lead on the short Moore trip to pay dirt.
Looking to keep the game close with a score, the Indians instead saw another long drive end when they fumbled at the Lake 43 where senior William Banks recovered.
“Coach (Lou) Copio does a great job with our defense and these kids study the other team all week and have a good idea what the other team is going to do,” Lake coach Fred Johnson said. “Our goal was to get better every week and win the South. We lost a lot of talent from last year but I knew we had the potential to be a good football team. We improved every week and I think we’re peaking at the right time.”
The Spartans (5-0, 7-2) added two more touchdowns in the second quarter and went into halftime with a 27-0 advantage.
With the ball back after the Banks recovery, Lake quickly made it 21-0 when Martin dashed 57 yards into the end zone on the offense’s first play from scrimmage. Lake then stopped IR on downs at its own 41 and engineered a five-play drive that senior quarterback Noah Feague-Johnson capped with a 4-yard keeper for a TD.
Feague-Johnson’s touchdown, his first of two in the game, came with two minutes to play before the halftime break.
Neither team could do much in the third quarter until near its end when IR junior halfback George Martin took a toss and then heaved the ball over the Spartans defense right to senior Barry Hooper for a 55-yard touchdown that got the Indians on the board.
Less than two minutes into the final quarter, however, Lake put the game out of reach when Feague-Johnson kept it on a read-option play, got the edge and ran 63 yards into the end zone – leading to a 34-7 Lake advantage with 10:45 remaining in the game.
“It started with the whole line, I couldn’t have done anything without my linemen,” Feague-Johnson said. “Ben Moore head a great block and Trevon was right there, he had a great block at the end. The (IR defense) crashed down on Elle (Harden) and it was a good fake, I just kept it.
“We’re improving every day at practice,” he added. “It took a while, but we’re getting there.”
One contest remains for the Spartans before the D-II playoffs, next week’s “Battle of the Bell” rivalry game with Milford. Adding intrigue to the game is that while Lake is already in the postseason, Milford, which moved to 6-3 with a comeback victory over Delmar on Friday, needs a win to potentially earn an at-large playoff berth.
The Spartans don’t want to be the team their rivals punch their postseason ticket against.
“That’s the most intense game of the year,” Moore said of the Milford bout. “We’re going to continue to work hard next week, play Milford and keep our bell.”