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L-E’s furious 28-point rally comes up short in 34-28 loss

Posted: September 8, 2012 12:51 p.m.
Updated: September 10, 2012 5:00 a.m.

FLORENCE -- A tale of two halves.
This statement has been used over and over again in sports, but it has never been more accurate on the high school football platform then this past Friday night in Florence.
West Florence jumped out to a big lead then held off a furious rally by the Lugoff-Elgin before winning, 34-28, at Memorial Stadium. The host Knights scored all of their 34 points in the first half, while L-E’s 28 came in the second half.
Those 34 points scored in the first half by the hosts were impressive, but the 28 and legitimate scare by the Demons was refreshing for a struggling club. L-E head coach Scott Jones handed all credit of the potential comeback to his coaching staff.
“Coach (Derek) Belton and the defensive staff got those guys together at halftime and did a great job of adjusting,” Jones said. “We had to shuffle more guys around and put them in and just try to slow them down a bit. We had a good adjustment; our coaches had some great ideas. I just can’t say enough about that.”
More on that near comeback later.
The game started quickly by a fast and loose scoring West Florence offense.
 The offensive attack led by 6-foot-3 sophomore quarterback Marquane Goodman and two very talented backs moved the ball at will against the Demon defense. It only took three plays and 80 yards for the Knights to strike first with a 49-yard touchdown run by Darius Charles down the near sideline.
A three and out by L-E gave the ball right back to the home team. On the very first play from scrimmage, Demon freshman defensive back Vincent Stevenson picked off the pass, jumping the route with perfect coverage on the receiver.
Jones still grinned proudly at the potential of Stevenson. “He’s going to be a good one. He has a steady head and learning on the job. He’s going to make some big plays for us.”
 On the ensuing drive, L-E marched to the WF four, but could not convert on fourth and goal. That would be the last glimmer of hope in the first half for the Demons as the Knights took the ball and went 96 yards in six plays, capped off by an 18-yard touchdown run by Charles. And just like that it was 14-0 with 3:25 left in the first quarter.
One of the big problems in controlling this Knights offensive attack is how quick they get to the line of scrimmage. It’s a no-huddle type offense and it’s so quick; very similar to a college teams like Oregon and even Clemson, to a certain extent. And WF has big athletes on the line as well as at receiver. Jones acknowledged the challenge but gave props to his squad in the same breath.
“Well, number 1, they are a lot bigger, stronger and faster than us,” Jones said. “We have a group of underachievers. There are a lot of 10th graders playing out there and we are just undermanned. And it is going to be like that every week. I challenged them to go out and compete and fight.”
The Demons would sputter on their next three possessions --- two three and outs and a turnover on downs --- which turned into West Florence scores. Scoring drives of 47, 61 and 50 made it 34-0 going into halftime.
 Charles had well over 100 yards rushing and three scores by the break while Goodman had a touchdown pass to 6-foot-5 wide out Akeem Bostick, who was wide-open and untouched on the final score of the half.
Jones was disgusted at how poorly his unit played in the opening 24 minutes.
 “It was the worst defensive effort in the history of the school, I think, in the first half,” he said. “Our coaches were pulling their hair out trying to figure out what was going on. I want to give a lot of credit to our coaches; they never gave up on trying to fix things.”
In the second half, the Demons shifted the momentum quickly forcing the Knights to turn it over on downs at the 20 yard line. Eighty yards and nine plays later, on a methodical drive that stayed on the ground the entire time, L-E put up its first points of the night with a two-yard touchdown run by Jalen McCaskill. Robert Frame tacked on the Pat kick and at the 3:03 mark of the third quarter, the lead stood at 34-7.
The Knights fumbled on the next position, giving the ball back to L-E. Keeping the momentum on their side, it took the Demons just two plays to score from the WF 49. Quarterback Shon Belton lobbed a high-arching pass to Keenan Myers down the sideline for 34 yards. McCaskill then pounded it in from 15 yards out to make it 34-14 nearing the end of the third quarter.
One has to wonder what sparked something like this to happen. L-E looked like a completely different team not just on offense, but on defense as well. The front line made multiple tackles for loss and kept WF’s once-quick strike attack at bay.  The guests carried those adjustments to two more scores.
Myers’ 11- yard scoring run, off a reverse, made it 34-21 with 7:25 left in the ballgame. And all of a sudden, we had a whole new ballgame. The drive was kept alive by Belton, who scrambled out of a quarterback counter, going from the far side of the field and coming down the nearside for 20 yards on a third and 15.
Belton led the offense with his feet and in the huddle converting third- and-long situations multiple times. It pleased the head coach to talk about this point of the game.
“Shon is a player isn’t he?” Jones later said. “I thought Shon made some incredible moves when he got out there in the open field.  But really what happened is the momentum just changed completely. Our guys started believing. A few first downs here and we got some good things going.”
On defense, it should be noted that L-E played its best game, thus far, this season. Jones was proud of his guys up front on the line including Joey Counts, who was working against Division I prospect David Driggers at right tackle.
“They were just getting their little tails cut early, then hunkered down and fought later in the second half,” Jones said of his defense. “Joey (Counts) was going against a guy who was 6’6, 230 pounds and that boy could move. I thought we wore him down in that second half.”
L-E then put on the most impressive drive of the game taking it 71 yards in eight plays, finished off by a pretty quarterback draw by Belton. The junior rolled to his right, then cut it inside for a two-yard score. And with 1:57 left in regulation, it was a one-score game at 34-28 after the Frame extra point kick.
After a failed onside kick, WF converted on a third down for a first down and would run out the clock for the win. But the Demons may have gotten just the jolt they needed with their play in the second half.
All three units, including special teams which played much better from last week, seemed to click when it mattered.
 “We were just trying to catch people defensively early instead of attacking,” Jones said of the different between the first and second halves. “It changed for the better in that second half.
“Nobody likes to lose, but I couldn’t be more proud of a football team. I think they had 90-some odd yards of offense in the second half; it was some good gut-check by our guys. Hats off to the defense in the second half and attributes to good coaching. We had a chance to win the ballgame there.”
The Demons hoping they can carry this momentum and newfound complete team rhythm into not just the Camden game this week, but for the rest of the season as well.
“I told them I was proud of them. It’s the only thing we can hang our hat on right now is that understanding that we had a chance to win the game,” Jones said. “Hindsight’s 20/20, but if we score there in the first quarter on the fourth and goal, we win the ballgame. Two good quarters don’t win you games. You have to play four quarters.
“I think we can build on it … I hope we can. We’ll point out these mistakes we made and ride the little momentum that we have. “

Demon Doings: West Florence gained 424 total yards on the night with 368 on the ground and just 56 through the air … L-E had a strong ground game as well, gaining 284 over land and 46 in the air … The Demons won the first down battle, 15-14 ... The Knights were penalized five times for 43 yards while L-E E was flagged three times for 25 yards … Belton ran 16 times for 110 yards and a score …  McCaskill had 89 tough yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns … Myers got in the action with 61 yards on nine carries with a score …  Charles led all rushers for the hosts with 13 carries for 179 and three scores … L-E starts the season at 0-3 for the second year in a row and the third time since 2007.

 

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