ROSEBORO – Since starting the season 0-3, Rosewood has gotten quite comfortable playing with a sense of urgency.
Eagles’ head coach Josh Smith is anticipating his team showing up with that same mindset as they visit Lakewood (7-2, 2-1 Carolina 1-A) tonight with conference championship and playoff seeding implications on the line.
The game can be heard locally on 98.3 WGBR, and online at Goldsborodailynews.com.
Rosewood (5-4, 2-1 Carolina 1-A) needs a victory over Lakewood, and a North Duplin loss at home versus Hobbton, in order to claim a third consecutive Carolina 1-A Conference championship. A loss by the Eagles and they could finish anywhere between second and fourth in the conference.
The NCHSAA state playoff brackets will be released on Oct. 29. The playoffs begin on Nov. 3.
Rosewood will look to bounce back after a 39-32 loss to North Duplin last week cost the Eagles ability to control their own destiny in the conference championship race. The loss was Rosewood’s first in conference play since 2020, and it’s first loss to the Rebels since 2017.
The Eagles have won five straight against Lakewood, and haven’t loss to the Leopards since 2017.
“I think it’s just another opportunity for us to put our print on this season,” said Smith. “This is the first time that our young men, and especially the varsity guys, have had a conference loss in the last two years. It’s an opportunity for them to grow. I think we all understand what’s at stake on Friday, and we all know the biggest thing is to take care of Rosewood. We’re focusing on us, focusing on the things we need to take place. As long we can focus on us, things at the end should be good.”
Rosewood will need to stiffen up its run defense after allowing 362 rushing yards and five touchdowns to North Duplin. Rebels’ senior tailback Dujuan Armwood rushed for a career-high 235 yards with four touchdowns.
Lakewood has rushed for 2,179 yards with 37 touchdowns this season. The Leopards average 8.9 yards per carry and 242.1 rushing yards per game. Freshman Calvin Lacewell leads Lakewood with 598 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns.
“I think North Duplin did a heck of a job executing their game plan, and being able to continue to do the things they’ve been doing well all year,” Smith said. “We just didn’t adjust very well. I think in the second half, we made some minor adjustments at halftime, and it was a little out of our scheme. Some of the guys put pressure on themselves to make plays. Like I mentioned last week, we look at the defense as puzzle pieces. Some of the guys were trying to make plays, and that wasn’t necessarily their puzzle piece and they were trying to do it for the betterment of the team, and what it did was it put some of our guys out of place. The biggest thing is being able to fit in your place.”
Offensively, Lakewood is averaging 43 points a game and has scored 50 or more points in five of its nine games. The Leopards’ offensive success centers around a veteran and physical offensive line, that head coach Barrett Sloan lovingly calls “The hogmollies.”
Freshman Calvin Lacewell leads the Leopards with 598 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns.
“Those hogmollies up front, they’ve gone to work this year,” Sloan said. “We’re really proud of our offensive line. Those guys don’t ever get enough credit. They’re always the first one’s in and the last one’s out. We take pride in being a physical and smart group. A lot of people don’t understand in football, you have to be smart, not just big or fast. We think those guys bring the best of both worlds.”
Taking care of the football will also need to be a priority for Rosewood as it faces a Lakewood defense that has forced 22 turnovers (11 interceptions/11 fumble recoveries) this season. The Eagles turned the ball over four times last week, including three interceptions from junior quarterback Gio Pineda. The Rebels returned one of those interceptions for a touchdown.
Pineda has thrown for 925 yards with 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
“I think the biggest thing is that (as a quarterback) you’ve got to have a short-term memory,” Smith said. “I think one of the interceptions, the first one that became a pick-6 was just some miscommunication with the receiver. Gio got a really good read and made a play and the receiver didn’t run the route the way we intended him to. That’s not something that’s on Gio. The biggest thing is being able to live to see another down. Teaching him when to try to force things and not force things is a big thing.”