ST. PETERSBURG — Following two lengthy lightning delays, Sunlake used two blocked punts and several key defensive stops to knock off Lakewood in an abbreviated preseason game, 22-20.
Matt Paduani led the way for the Seahawks, notching two touchdown catches. Paduani’s second touchdown was caught over a Lakewood defender and proved crucial as it gave Sunlake the lead with four minutes left in the half. The teams decided to play just one half.
"Those were huge," Sunlake coach Bill Browning said. "He had a great spring for us and he had a great offseason up until now. He made a play when he had to make it."
Sunlake scored following a blocked punt off of Lakewood’s first drive. Lakewood responded after junior Deuce Spann scampered 50 yards up the sideline for a touchdown just before lightning suspended play for a second time.
Browning said the break allowed the team to refocus.
"We just went over the mistakes," he said. "We had a couple defenders that weren’t fundamentally sound on it and we went back over and talked fundamentals."
Lakewood pushed its lead to 20-7 following two Javon Moorer touchdown runs.
Sunlake followed that with a touchdown by Paduani on a read-pass option from senior Hunter Watts that brought the Seahawks within a touchdown at 20-13.
"Me and my quarterback have a real good connection," Paduani said. "We practice all the time on plays like that, outside shoulder catches."
Lakewood had a chance to put the game away, but a safety gave the Seahawks the ball back with enough time to score.
Paduani said the win against a perennial playoff team is a sign of things to come.
"Well, I know it’s gonna be a good year now," Paduani said. "I have so much faith in my team. I’ve played with them since eighth grade, so it’s gonna be a good year."