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Lakewood will keep its date at state, hopefully advancing, and the prom.
By DOUG KATES
Published May 5, 2006
ST. PETERSBURG - Most of Lakewood High's prom guests will be arriving Friday night by limousine, sports car or luxury car, but for 10 students who have prior commitments, they will be arriving by airplane.
"Very stressful," is how senior Sade Brown described Thursday evening, just 24 hours before the state flag football playoffs in Boca Raton and the traditional end-of-the-school-year prom party.
Like nine of her teammates, Brown will be attending both.
"I'm going to be focused on the game and going on to the next level," said Brown, the Spartans' quarterback. "It's been our goal since ninth grade. We finally made it. The prom is not going to be on our minds."
The day before the state playoffs and the prom, Lakewood coach Necole Tunsil gave her 25 players time off to prepare for a very busy day. Brown spent her time picking up a $115 dress and getting a $70 hairdo. She guarantees she will be in her new dress and meeting friends at the prom, but she could not guarantee her hair would look as beautiful after four quarters of action against Seminole Ridge.
"I'll do what I have to do," she said.
"I want everyone to be happy and not feel any pressure," Tunsil said. "I'm not going (to the prom), but I'm going to do whatever it takes to get them there. Dates will be waiting."
The seriousness of the prom raised a lot of concerns during the district and region playoffs. When the Spartans faced Countryside last week for the right to advance to state, many players and their parents were upset to learn the prom was on the same night as the first state game - obviously, neither event could be rescheduled.
Tunsil sat down with her kids and presented them with an option. She told them they could allow the Cougars to win the region game and take the spot in the state playoffs, but that idea didn't go over well.
Tunsil said her kids provided enough evidence to prove they were taking this playoff run very seriously. The Spartans traveled to Countryside, winning 25-0.
"For me, that was a sign my team was ready to go to states," she said. "Afterwards, they were dancing. It was clear they wanted to go. At that point, we had to make a decision."
Coaches, parents, players and school officials got together and came up with a plan. The entire team will take a school bus to Boca Raton for today's 4 p.m. game. When the action is over, hopefully around 5, the 10 prom-goers immediately will leave by van for the airport and fly into Tampa, where they will be picked up, driven home and hopefully have plenty of time to get ready for their big night. The kids are shooting for a 10 p.m. arrival time and Brown said they all want to walk in as winners.
Whatever happens, Tunsil said she already is proud. Not only is Lakewood 27-1 in the past two seasons, but she appreciates the effort the kids are going to give the minute they wake up this morning. This is the first time in six seasons the Spartans will be in a state tournament game.
"No one expected us to go this far," Tunsil said. "I'm just happy they want to represent the school."