ARLINGTON - Bob Ames has been a fixture on the Meridian football team's sideline the past 39 years. Never in that time have the Trojans taken the field without him.
That's even a longer timeframe than the last time Meridian lost a game against Lakewood - about 10 years longer.
So don't blame the Trojans if everything seemed a bit off following their 41-28 loss on Friday, Sept. 7, at Lakewood, as Ames was at home "violently ill" and Meridian lost a game to the Cougars for the first time since 1983.
"You try to stress to the kids that if you are down a coach, it's just like being down one of the players that you got," said Patrick Ames, who took over as Meridian's head coach in his father's place. "Everybody tries to pick up the slack and you do the best you can."
But the Trojans were little match for Lakewood as they fell behind 19-0 in the first quarter and 38-7 by halftime.
"Not having him (Bob Ames) here especially hurt us on the defensive side of the ball," Patrick Ames said.
Lakewood scored touchdowns on five straight possessions in the first half and finished the game with 194 yards rushing. Lakewood's running back Donovan Evans scored two touchdowns to go with his 141 yards rushing, but not even his night compared to teammate Justin Peterson's, who ran for two touchdowns, caught one and returned one of Max McGuinn's three interceptions 87 yards for a score.
That was in one half.
Peterson's interception was the biggest play of the night, as it changed the entire complexion of the game. Meridian started with the ball to start the game and drove into the red zone on McGuinn's 56-yard pass to Relijah McMillan.
McGuinn dropped back the next play and threw high to his intended receiver, Alex Yelminov, and Peterson was right there to take it 87 yards to the house.
The Cougars never looked back from there.
"It was a huge play," Peterson said. "That first drive of the game started really well for them and we thought that maybe we didn't know what we were getting into. But then our defense stepped up and we took over."
McGuinn finished with 292 yards passing with three touchdowns and three interceptions - pushing his total to seven picks for the season. McMillen had seven catches for 150 yards with two scores.
Meridian fell to 0-2 with the loss after suffering a 42-8 defeat at Burlington-Edison last week.
Meridian 7 7 0 14- 28
Lakewood 19 19 3 0- 41
LAK-Justin Peterson 87 interception return (Pass failed)
LAK-Peterson 27 pass from Kolby Schueller (Randy Anaya kick)
LAK-Donovan Evans 50 run (Run failed)
MER-Letrez Jones 2 run (Casey Bromet kick)
LAK-Peterson 4 run (Run failed)
LAK-Peterson 2 run (Anaya kick)
LAK-Evans 5 run (Kick failed)
MER-Jeremy Brockmann 13 pass from Max McGuinn (Bromet kick)
LAK-Anaya 31 field goal
MER-Relijah McMillen 15 pass from McGuinn (Jones run)
MER-McMillen 16 pass from McGuinn (Run failed)
First Downs 19 14
Rushes-yards 21-126 36-194
Passing yards 292 127
Comp-att-int 19-39-3 10-14-0
Fumbles-lost 2-1 2-1
Penalties-yards 6-60 2-20
RUSHING-Meridian: Letrez Jones 9-53; Evan Childs 7-42; Junior Castro 3-28; Max McGuinn 2-3. Lakewood: Donovan Evans 18-141; Justin Peterson 7-46; Taylor Jensen 6-9; Matt Seiber 1-1; Mitchell Huglen 1-0; Sean Dawson 1-(-3).
PASSING-Meridian: Max McGuinn 19-39-3-292. Lakewood: Kolby Schueller 3-5-0-69; Justin Peterson 4-5-0-27; Donovan Evans 1-1-0-16; Taylor Jensen 2-3-0-15.
RECEIVING-Meridian: Relijah McMillen 7-150; Jeremy Brockmann 3-44; Letrez Jones 1-29; Trevin Todd 3-28; Junior Castro 1-16; Sam Chambers 2-15; Drake VanderYacht 2-10. Lakewood: Justin Peterson 3-69; Andrew Bean 1-16; Eric Murray 2-15; Drake Chaves 2-15; Alex Gotts 2-12.