ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA – The hype machine when it comes to how good the Lakewood Spartans’ football team can be is pretty high going into this highly anticipated 2022 season.
Lakewood is coming off a very impressive 2021 campaign that saw that Spartans reach the state semifinal round of the playoffs before falling to Cardinal Gibbons, 36-18, in the Class 4A state semifinals. Now the Spartans are back, loaded with talent in a newly constructed Class 2A-Metro, District 8 with neighboring rivals like Gibbs and Boca Ciega
The Spartans were a team that started to gain some strong notoriety as a potential state championship contender when they nearly pulled off a win over Lakeland last season and picked up solid victories over Palmetto, Glades Central and Clewiston. Lakewood returns to playing a formidable 2022 regular season slate of games that will challenge the Spartans for a potential postseason run.
Head coach Cory Moore’s group kicks off the season on August 26th when the Spartans face Northeast at home. It’s actually more of a rare Pinellas County opponent for the Spartans, as they filled their schedule with plenty of out-of-county teams.
Lakewood this season faces Palm Beach Central, Homestead, Delray Beach Atlantic, Southridge and Lakeland. Facing so many out-of-area teams is by design, however, in hopes of battle testing the team before taking on a potential deep playoff run of any sort.
The reason so many people are so high on the Spartans almost always starts with their quarterback play and senior Anthony Colandrea is primed for a big final campaign at Lakewood. In 2021, Colandrea completed 216-of-345 passes for 3,252 yards and 41 touchdowns and also added 362 yards rushing on the ground.
Colandrea, a University of Virginia commitment, is of course surrounded by one of the most talented skill groups in the county led by returning running back/linebacker Montravius Lloyd (641 rushing yards in 2021). Wide receivers Aviyon Smith-Mack, Solomon Lowery, Antonio Bell and Antonio Morgan are expected to get plenty yards through the air via Colandrea. Up front on the offensive line, the Spartans will be led by talented guard Jaden Ledbetter and Isaiah Johnson.
On the defensive side of the ball, Pinellas Park transfer Amare Garrett will be a solid addition to an already talented secondary across the board. The front seven for Lakewood, however, is what really separates the Spartans from a lot of teams as they feature some of the top defensive linemen in Pinellas.
Defensive line wise, the Spartans bring back defensive end Isaiah Nixon (75 tackles, 10 sacks in 2021) and Taveon Walker (76 tackles, 10 sacks in 2021). At the linebacker position, it’s as experienced as it gets with returners Jeremy Willoughby (93 tackles in 2021), Samorion Lang (48 tackles in 2021), Cedric Augustine (65 tackles in 2021) and Rashard Hartwell (72 tackles, eight sacks).
There’s no lack of talent when it comes down to looking at Lakewood from top to bottom, with even the Spartans bringing back experience at the kicking position in senior Nathaniel Sosa-Jones. With Lakewood packing its schedule with plenty of talented ball clubs and a slew of talent on both sides of the ball, a run towards a state championship is the expectation for the Spartans and nothing less.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Andy_Villamarzo.