With one burst through an open hole and a punishing conclusion to a punishing 10-yard run, Jay Turner provided a glimpse at the offense that never was for Lakewood Ranch during the fall.
The running back, who was limited to three games last season by a knee injury, was the staple of the Mustangs’ offense through the first quarter during Friday’s spring game at Lakewood Ranch High School, an eventual 19-14 loss to Sarasota Booker. And on his seventh carry he gave the Mustangs the sort of early breakthrough they struggled to find in 2016. He gashed through Booker’s defense and pounded his way to the front right corner of the end zone to send Lakewood Ranch to a 7-0 lead.
“It was fun to watch Jay play,” head coach Mick Koczersut said. “He ran really hard tonight.”
Despite the exhibition loss, Turner’s return to live game action for the first since September was an encouraging sign. Koczersut had the confidence to give the rising senior 30 carries and he turned them in to 131 yards and a touchdown.
It was fun to watch Jay play. He ran really hard tonight.
Mick Koczersut, Lakewood Ranch head coach
The recipe of pounding Turner and relying on a turnover-hawking defense — the Mustangs recovered four fumbles and picked off a pass — was enough to bring Lakewood Ranch closer to victory than they often were during a two-win 2016 campaign. Without Turner, the Mustangs’ offense was mostly stagnant, averaging 9.9 points per game. Only two of their seven losses came by fewer than 23 points. Lakewood Ranch’s 14 points against the Tornadoes would’ve been their third largest output of 2016.
“It could’ve made a difference,” Koczersut said of Turner’s presence, “definitely in a couple games.”
The Mustangs’ offense Friday was instead felled by a rash of turnovers. Turner fumbled the ball away twice. Quarterback Justin Curtis was intercepted twice after dropped passes, including one that would’ve moved Lakewood Ranch to Booker’s goal line. Instead, the pick was run back for a touchdown by cornerback Jermaine Ziegler.
The rest of the Tornadoes’ scoring came from a pair of touchdown runs by dual-threat quarterback Talik Keaton.
9.9Points per game Lakewood Ranch averaged during the 2016 season.
Curtis, who is set to enter his third season during which he’s started at least a portion of the Mustangs’ games, was mostly solid, as well, even with only a few days of spring practice behind him. Curtis didn’t begin practicing with Lakewood Ranch until May 10 when the Mustangs’ baseball team lost in the region playoffs. With only a handful of practices, Curtis threw for 61 yards and ran for another 49, including a 27-yard touchdown scramble that cut Booker’s lead to 19-14.