By Joe Phillips
For the Johnstonian News
PRINCETON — Playing Thursday night football after inclement weather affected area sports schedules, the Princeton Bulldogs came away with a hard-fought 37-22 win over Salemburg Lakewood on senior night to move to 8-0 overall and 4-0 in 1-A Carolina Conference play.
The Bulldogs took a first-quarter lead on a 12-play, 88-yard drive that culminated with a 4-yard touchdown run by Lamar Wilkins. Wilkins added the 2-point conversion to give Princeton an 8-0 lead with 6:59 to play in the first quarter.
After the Princeton kickoff, Lakewood had good field position at the 48-yard line, but the Leopards were unable to capitalize and turned the ball over on downs at the 40. The Bulldogs engineered a 12-play, 47-yard drive but ultimately were unable to convert on fourth-and-short.
Lakewood took over on downs at the 13-yard line and put together a 10-play, 87-yard drive that ended with a 9-yard TD run by Jahdon Smith. Shemar Tucker added the two-point conversion to knot the score at 8 apiece with 2:28 to play in the first half.
Princeton answered almost immediately with a 73-yard touchdown pass from Wilkins to wideout Trey Roa. The subsequent two-point conversion by Wilkins gave the Bulldogs the lead once again at 16-8 with 1:42 remaining in the half.
Following the kickoff, Lakewood’s offense took the field with the ball at the 38-yard line. As it turns out, plenty of time remained for the Leopards to cover the 62 yards needed for a score. Quarterback Hayden Carter connected with Austin Campbell for a 25-yard touchdown on the fifth play of the drive. After multiple penalties backed the Leopards up on the two-point conversion attempt, Jahdon Smith found Juwaun Johnson on the halfback pass to tie the score at 16 headed into halftime.
Lakewood received the second-half kickoff and marched 66 yards in nine plays for the go-ahead score. Carter once again found a wide-open Campbell for a 39-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the Leopards with a 22-16 lead with 7:33 to play in the third quarter.
A penalty for catch interference on the ensuing kickoff gave the Bulldogs offense excellent field position at the 38-yard line. Wilkins only needed a single play to find paydirt to answer the Leopards score. A failed two-point attempt left the score tied at 22 with 7:23 left in the third quarter.
A promising drive on Lakewood’s next possession ended with a Carter pass attempt being picked off by Princeton’s Jaydon Brooks. Brooks’ interception gave the Bulldogs the ball at the 44-yard line. Princeton took nine plays to move 56 yards and score to regain the lead. Wilkins scored the touchdown from 4 yards out and Nathan Ramby added the two-point conversion to put the Bulldogs on top 30-22.
Princeton’s defense forced a three-and-out on Lakewood’s next possession and took over on the 17-yard line after a Leopard punt. On the fourth play of the drive, John Lockamy ripped off a 59-yard touchdown run for the Bulldogs. Christian Villa added the point-after kick to give Princeton the 37-22 lead with 9:21 remaining in the game.
On Lakewood’s final possession, Princeton’s Harley Bartholomew intercepted a Carter pass attempt to give the Bulldogs the ball inside the 5-yard line. The Bulldogs offense was able to keep possession and run the remaining time off the clock to secure the win.
The Princeton victory sets up a matchup this Friday with conference foe Rosewood (7-1 overall, 4-0 conference) for the Carolina 1-A conference title.