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L-E needs to win out to keep playoff hopes alive

Posted: October 27, 2011 4:34 p.m.
Updated: October 28, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Like the crew of a moving company, the Lugoff-Elgin football coaches have been kept busy by shifting players from one position into another not just in practice, but on Friday nights, as well.

In last week’s 30-0 loss to West Florence, the Demons saw sophomore quarterback Shon Belton miss the entire second half with a hip injury. Although not at full-strength, he is expected to be able to play when L-E travels to meet South Florence tonight.

Also last Friday, defensive back/wingback/punt and kick returner Josh Ruiz was felled by a deep thigh bruise. He may well have to sit this one out and join the Demons’ walking wounded. That group added another player when a trip to the doctor led to starting tight end Justin Gilstrap being sidelined by a head-related injury.

So, who will be inserted into starting roles tonight when the Demons take to the Florence Memorial Stadium playing surface? Not even their head coach, Scott Jones, knew for sure as of Wednesday.

"Well, the emphasis is who shows up for practice and who shows up for the game," Jones said while shaking his head in near disbelief.

"It’s (the injury situation) as bad as I’ve ever seen. We certainly don’t want to make excuses, but it’s like I told our kids the other day, human nature is that you want to share all your problems with everybody. The fact is, common people don’t want to hear your problems so, we have to move on and do the best that we can."

Tonight’s contest is, basically, a win and survive one for the Demons who need to win their final two games of the regular season --- including next’s week’s home pairing with Sumter --- in order to have a chance make their second appearance in the 4A state playoffs in as many years. Given the first team up for L-E, Jones said an at-large post-season berth will be hard to come by for his battered troops.

"It is a tough task and we’re playing a very good football team this week," Jones said of this evening’s match-up with the Bruins.

"Our guys have all pulled to

gether and have good attitudes, for the most part. Our kids understand that we’ve had some really bad luck and that we’re having to play some people who haven’t played their positions that we’re asking them to play before."

Should Belton not be able to make a go of it tonight, the Demons have the versatile Dalton Simons waiting in the wings. The senior started the season under center and came in relief of Belton last Friday night.

In Simons’ case, at least he has experience in playing the position where he was needed last week. For many a Demon, they are learning new spots on the field and, on the fly.

"Because of the injuries that we had the other night, we’re having to put people into new positions or, they’re having to play dual positions in case something happens, as backups," Jones said. "We have offensive line guys shuffling, backs and receivers shuffling and we have different people at different positions in practice."

With Malik Young (high ankle sprain) and Ruiz probably not being available, the weight of carrying the offense will be on the shoulders of fullback Zach Connell and Belton, for the most part. Markus Kershaw, Javone Byrd and Derrick Miller will also see time in the backfield. The new faces in new places has led to the Demons’ having to strip things down on offense and paring the playbook to a few, select plays.

"We’re going to have to be pretty simple on offense, just so that people understand what we’re doing," Jones said. "Defensively, it’s the same thing. We can’t get complicated because we have people falling out and not being able to practice.

"There will be a couple guys who will be game-time decisions as to whether they can play or not. We’re having to get people ready to play in different spots."

The L-E defense will try to slow down a Bruin offense which relies heavily on the passing game. Quarterback Ethan Grainger has already thrown for 1,892 yards and 20 touchdowns in nine games. But the senior has also been victimized in having thrown 15 interceptions.

When Grainger goes up top, his two favorite targets are Te’Von Johnson and Shannon James, who have combined for 84 catches, more than 1,100 yards and a dozen touchdowns. Throw in halfback Brandon Lewis and his seven scoring runs and Lynn Fleming’s squad has the ability to score in bunches.

"They’re really good on offense. They have an incredible passing attack," Jones said. "We were able to keep them in check last year. We have to keep them from getting any big plays.

"They probably pass the ball around 70 percent of the time. They have a really good running back and what they like to do with him is to throw him screens and hand the ball off to him on draw plays. What they will do is to get you going backwards (in covering the vertical game) and then, they hit you with a screen or the draw."

Defensively, the Bruins are on the upswing. South Florence will stack the box with an eight-man front, but will bring pressure from all angles with the blitz, when needed.

As if his team’s injury woes, especially on offense, are not enough to bear, Jones said the Bruins add another problem to the Demons’ already full plate.

"I’m not so sure that we can move the ball on them. They’re very intimidating on defense and they’re very well coached," Jones said of the WF defensive unit.

"They blitz a good bit and they try to put a lot of pressure on you. We have enough pressure on us without their helping that even more."

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