In this article, you will get all information regarding Lakewood football aiming to make playoffs in Coach Justin Utupo’s 2nd season

LAKEWOOD — Lakewood football is looking forward to starting the high school football season with a 0-0 record.

“We put last year behind us, our focus right now is Orange Vista,” said Lakewood football coach Justin Utupo. “We always want to be in the driver’s seat, be in control and if we take care of business early on, good things will happen later in the season.”

“I love that our discipline is much better this year,” said Lakewood senior quarterback Brayden Downen. “We’re more organized and our work ethic is much better since last year.”

The Lancers went 3-7 and missed the playoffs in 2021, which was Utupo’s first season as head coach at his alma mater. Utupo was the 2009 Moore League Defensive Player of the Year and went on to play college football at the University of Notre Dame before starting his coaching career.

On Lakewood’s defense, 6-foot-2 265-pound defensive lineman Rahkeen Moore will be expected to wreak havoc in opposing backfields. As of Thursday, he was the only player on the team to earn the black practice jersey so far this season.

“It feels good taking that leadership role. I had a lot of guys to look up to in the past,” said Moore, who wants to play Division I college football. “I’m looking to get my team right… everybody giving 100% effort. We’ve been tightening up a lot of our errors, leaving it all on the field.”

Lakewood finished 3-3 in Moore League play last season and was part of a three-way tie for third place. The envelope draw for the league’s third automatic playoff spot was won by Compton, which went on to make it to the CIF Southern Section Division 12 championship game.

“I’m still hungry for more,” Downen said. “Success would definitely be making the playoffs since we couldn’t do that last year, and winning a championship if we can.”

Utupo expects the Lancers’ offense to be led by Downen, who threw for 2,000 yards, 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 10 games last year, which was his first season as a varsity starter.

“His poise, him in the system for a whole offseason and the chemistry with some of the returning receivers like (senior) Takim Raye-Brown will be huge for our offense and bringing along all the young guys in the program as well,” Utupo explained.

Meanwhile, Moore’s mindset and leadership should inspire this year’s Lancers football team.

“Just having the mindset that even if you’re down, you have to always fight,” Moore said. “Leave it all on the field, play through every whistle and finish the game out by leaving everything out there. Success is having a positive record, making playoffs and bringing home that ring.”

Q&A with coach Justin Utupo

What do you want your team’s identity to be this season?

Utupo: “Physical. We want to be a physical team.”

What do you want to improve upon from last season?

“Finish. Four quarters, from start to finish, we want to finish every game strong.”

Who are some standout players on offense and defense?

“It starts with our quarterback Brayden Downen, him coming back for his second year will be huge for us. Having Kaleb Foster back and having him run the football, alongside Zion Smith. On the defensive side, Rahkeen Moore, he’s the alpha of this team. Guys like Tyree McCowen at linebacker, Jace Casillas and Anthony Winston Jr. in the secondary, we’re excited for those players this season.”

What do you think your team’s ceiling is?

“The message this year is taking it one day at a time, one game at a time, so right now we have Orange Vista on the clock. (Thursday) at practice was the first day of tackling so we’re trying to focus in, one day, one game at a time.”

Ultimately, what will make this a successful season?

“What would make this a successful season is being able to see (our team) out there competing for all four quarters and playing together. There are going to be ups and downs this year and we all know that. We know other teams are going to make plays and so are we. When adversity hits, how do we respond.”

Lakewood football aiming to make playoffs in Coach Justin Utupo’s 2nd season

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