The Lakewood football team came into Friday's match with Lake City in need of a win.
The Gators have battled COVID-19 all season, and their roster has faced the repercussions, as Lakewood has played with 23 or fewer players more than once this year.
When Lakewood had the ball trailing by seven points on Friday, there was only one person to turn to: Zayveon Wells. The Gator Swiss Army Knife, who took over as the team's quarterback in the second half, ran in a late score to cut the deficit to 13-12 before punching in the two-point conversion to put LHS on top. The defense held on, and the Gators got their first win of the season.
That performance was also enough to earn Wells the Hines Furniture Athlete of the Week.
"It feels great. Knowing I have the support from the whole Lakewood community is awesome," Wells said. "I rep Lakewood in a great way, so knowing that I have their support is a great feeling."
Wells felt the support of the Gator community when he won the vote from Sumter Item readers this week, but he felt the support of his coaches and teammates when his number was called with the game on the line Friday.
"It means a lot to me that the coaches have confidence to put the ball in my hands during crucial possessions," Wells said. "More importantly, my teammates give me the confidence to play at a high level and do what it takes to win. The faith they have in me makes it easy to make plays that win games for us."
Wells does a little bit of everything for the Gators. While he provided the game-winning touchdown on offense, Wells is primarily known as a shutdown player in the Gator secondary. On Friday, he found some room to run on the ground, finishing the night with 101 yards. He takes a lot of pride in always being on the field.
"I told my teammates and coaches that I'll play whatever position to help the team win, even it that means I have to play offensive line," he said. "Not coming off of the field is tough, but I've gotta push though and make sure my body is right and in shape."
Lakewood head coach Larry Cornelius knows the importance of having a utility player like Wells on his roster.
"Zay is a 'do-it-all' guy for us," Cornelius said. "He can line up in any skill position for us and be dynamic in that role. He's a young man that gets 90% of the reps in a game in all three phases - offense, defense and special teams."
Wells lined up at quarterback to score the crucial touchdown late. He ran a read-option and made the outside linebacker miss after the defensive end followed the running back. He found some room to run on the outside and snuck into the end zone for the score.
On the conversion, the Gators ran a heavy package and he tried to find some room up the middle. With the help of his offensive line, he was able to find just enough space to break the into the end zone for the game-winning conversion.
"All I was thinking was about getting into the end zone. I knew we couldn't go down short," Wells said. "My whole focus was to keep going until I cross the white line. With the help of my teammates, I got in."
It was an important win for the Gators. The fact that the win came against a Region VI-3A opponent on Homecoming only made it sweeter.
"Knowing all of the things we've been through this year with COVID and just fighting adversity," Wells said, "we really needed that huge W. Plus, its region play and Homecoming, so we didn't wanna lose any more games in front of our home crowd."
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