Lakewood’s Jared Taylor runs the ball during the game on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019 in Arlington, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Lakewood’s Jared Taylor runs the ball during the game on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019 in Arlington, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

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Lakewood overcomes early miscues, tops No. 3 Archbishop Murphy

The Cougars’ dual-threat quarterback Jared Taylor totaled five touchdowns in the victory.

ARLINGTON — Things could have gotten ugly in a hurry for Lakewood.

The Cougars’ first play from scrimmage was coughed up for a fumble, and Archbishop Murphy recovered with excellent field position. A dropped snap on Lakewood’s next offensive play scuttled the Cougars’ second drive.

But the Cougars didn’t fold, and that resiliency started under center with senior quarterback Jared Taylor.

Taylor rushed for 175 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries and threw for two more scores to lead the Cougars (5-1, 2-1 Northwest 2A Sky Division) over the Wildcats (4-2, 1-2), 35-27, on Friday at Lakewood High School.

“He’s just a warrior and he’s a competitor and wants the opportunity,” Lakewood coach Dan Teeter said of Taylor. “It was really interesting to see because he fumbled the first two snaps, and one is a turnover. Instead of getting down on himself, he battled back and he looked like the best player on the field tonight.

“He made the throws he needed to … and running the ball he was just a beast. He’s a legit dual-threat quarterback.”

Taylor and the Lakewood offense recorded only one first down in the first quarter, but exploded for 35 points in the final three. Teeter said he was impressed with Taylor’s ability to right the ship after a brutal start.

“I fumbled first possession, first play, and when I ran to the sideline, every teammate was just like, ‘You got this, a lot of game to play,’” Taylor said. “Everyone just believed in each other and we pulled it out.”

The ability to shake off a bad play is something Teeter said has impressed him about Taylor since the junior stepped on Lakewood’s campus as a freshman in 2016. He made a spot start as a freshman in a Week 10 game against Nooksack Valley, in which he filled in for starter Austin Lane and led the Cougars to a 27-26 win.

“It was a nice surprise,” Teeter said.

Three years later, a more mature Taylor is demonstrating why he’s the Cougars’ leader. A win over Archbishop Murphy, a team Lakewood hadn’t beaten since 2014, is a nice way to demonstrate that.

“You need to have a guy at quarterback that just wants the ball and is going to shake off anything negative that’s happened and just look for the next play,” Teeter said. “You need to have a short memory at that position and he does a great job of moving on.

“I don’t think that’s something you can teach. I think you can improve it and teach them some things, but that’s something you call intangibles that we’re always looking for. And he’s got it.”

IMPACT

Not only did Friday’s win snap the Wildcats’ three-game winning streak over the Cougars, but Lakewood now possesses the inside track for the No. 2 seed in the Northwest 2A Sky Division.

After losing to both Lakewood and Lynden, Archbishop Murphy is now unable to win the league outright, and will need to win its final two regular-season games to earn one of the Sky Division’s three byes into the Week 10 playoffs.

KEY PLAY

On a second-quarter third-and-10 for Lakewood, Taylor was just looking to take a chunk out of it to set up a manageable fourth-down attempt.

Instead, he got the whole shabang. And then some.

The senior signal-caller sprinted up the left sideline, shedding multiple tackles for a 50-yard touchdown run to put Lakewood up 14-6.

“That run kind of got us going,” Taylor said. “It felt really good to run it.”

It was Taylor’s second big touchdown run of the night, as he broke off a 46-yard touchdown in the third quarter to put Lakewood up 28-12.

TURNING POINT

Down 6-0 with just seconds left in the first quarter, Lakewood’s offense had generated only a single first down and was searching for answers.

A special teams spark changed that.

As the quarter expired, a muffed punt that the Cougars pounced on at midfield woke up Lakewood’s offense, with the Cougars marching down for a nine-play, 53-yard drive to jump up 7-6 on the Wildcats.

“That gave us a spark, for sure,” Teeter said. “… I was really pleased with the composure our guys showed. I think we only had two penalties tonight and it was a hot game. That was a big difference-maker.”

WILDCATS COMEBACK FALLS SHORT

Down 28-12 early in the fourth quarter, Archbishop Murphy put up as much of a fight as it could.

Quarterback Victor Gabalis drove the Wildcats down the field and fit in a 13-yard touchdown pass through traffic to Joe Ennis and Mason Mathis rushed it in from 2-yards out on the two-point conversion to cut the lead to eight.

But the Wildcats couldn’t stop the Cougars’ ground game, as Malik Dotson broke free for a 48-yard run, setting up Taylor’s third running touchdown of the night from 6 yards out to put the Cougars back up by two scores.

Archbishop Murphy turned it over on downs on the ensuing possession, but forced and recovered a fumble to regain possession with 2:10 remaining. Ennis caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from Gabalis to cut the lead back to eight.

But Archbishop Murphy’s onside kick was recovered by Lakewood and Taylor was able to kneel down twice to seal the victory.

“Lakewood is a great football team and we knew it was going to be a heckuva battle,” Archbishop Murphy coach Mark Leone said. “They got a lot of emotion playing on senior night and at home, and they made a lot of big plays and we didn’t.”

KEY PERFORMERS

— Dotson rushed for 82 yards on 10 carries for the Cougars.

— Mathis rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries to lead the Wildcats on the ground.

— Ennis rushed for 38 yards on 12 carries and caught five passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns.

QUOTABLES

Teeter on responding after the loss to Lynden: “Really what I’m proud of is we got beat by Lynden pretty good a week ago, so we’re challenging the guys on what would show up. They really bounced back and took to heart the lessons that we taught them last week. Really, really proud of the guys.”

Teeter on the offensive line: “If I was giving a game ball, Jared and the other backs don’t do what they do without the line doing a great job. They did a phenomenal job against a great defense.”

NEXT UP

Lakewood travels to Blaine (1-5, 0-3) and Archbishop Murphy hosts Burlington-Edison (1-5, 1-2) on the Wildcats’ senior night.

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