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Demons hoping a change will do them good in 2013

Posted: May 21, 2013 11:55 a.m.
Updated: May 22, 2013 5:00 a.m.
C-I photo by Tom Didato/

ILLICHRIS GORDON HANDS the ball off to Shon Belton during a running back drill during Lugoff-Elgin’s spring practice session.

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What better time of year to clean up things around the house than spring?
Taking a cue from homemakers worldwide, Lugoff-Elgin head football coach Scott Jones used the off-season to rid his program of those who were not all in. What was left was a smaller group of varsity Demons, but a squad bent on turning things around following a winless 2012 campaign.
L-E welcomed some 100 athletes to the gridiron for the start of spring drills with more than half of those being probable junior varsity performers come the start of the season. That allowed the varsity coaching staff to provide more attention to detail to players on their side of the field.
After the three-week spring drill period, Jones said he could not have been happier with his more streamlined team and accomplishing the goals which the coaching staff set out for the Demons.
“Since January,” Jones said, “our guys have really lifted and worked hard in the weight room. They did what we asked them to do.
“We weeded out those that didn’t have good attitudes; they’re no longer with the program. We have guys who want to be here. We don’t have a lot of them, but the ones  that we have all have good attitudes which we think that will carry us a long way.”
January was also the final time the L-E players and coaching staff made reference to last fall’s woes. Jones said there was no use in rehashing all the problems which the program went through in its third go ‘round in the state class 4A ranks. Just two years earlier, the Demons burst onto the scene by winning the Region 6-4A crown.
Jones said he believes in this team and, more importantly, the players are eager to turn things around come this fall.
“Coach and players … everybody knows how bad it was. There’s no need to dwell on it,” said Jones, who is entering his 12th season at the L-E helm. “All we’re trying to do is to look forward, move on, try to win some ballgames, compete and try to get back to the playoffs. That’s everybody’s goal at this time of year, particularly ours.
“These kids have gone through the hard times and they understand the problems associated with the program and the growing pains we had to go through. The kids are ready and they feel confident. I think of lot of that has to do with the work coaches Garrett Knight and Tim Davis have done with our guys in the weight room and getting our guys prepared.”
Not only were attitudes changed in the off-season, but so, too, were the program’s philosophy and schemes. Jones said the Demons underwent a complete top to bottom overhaul in which everything the program has done was turned inside out.
The terminology on both offense and defense changed. Schemes were given new names which required an equal dose of teaching and scrimmaging. “By the end of our spring practice period,” Jones said, “a lot of our guys had done extremely well and we got a lot accomplished.”
No area received more of facelift than did the defense which will be under the direction of first-year defensive coordinator Dave Thomas, who comes to the West Wateree from Fort Mill High School. Before that, he was an assistant coach at Northwestern High School. Thomas brings an entirely new defensive strategy with him, one which the L-E players have bought into.
Thomas, Jones said, is an up and comer in the coaching business who has been a part of winning programs. He immediately grabbed the attention of fellow coaches and defensive players alike.
“He’s revamped the whole thing. He has some good ideas,” Jones said of Thomas. “He’s not a screamer or a hollerer, but he’s very effective.”
Jones believes Thomas can help transform a defensive unit which allowed opposing offenses more than 38 points per game in 2012.
“On defense, we just tried to slow somebody up,” Jones said of the focus on defense in the spring. “We haven’t been very good over there. We’re trying to get guys in the right places. The secondary was the main focus in trying to get those guys where they needed to be. I feel like we’re coming around there.”
Offensively, the Demons averaged just less than 18 points per contest last season. The team returns senior Shon Belton, who has started under center the past two seasons. Belton led L-E in yards gained on the ground with 617 and touchdowns with nine. He also passed for 460 yards and three touchdowns.
The Demons found a spark in the backfield a year ago when they placed rising senior Eli Burroughs back there as he piled up 174 yards on 39 carries. But they are the lone holdovers from those who carried the ball a year ago.
“On the offensive side,” Jones said, “we were trying to put pieces together with our backfield. We felt like we accomplished that, to a large extent. And we also tried to expand our passing game and get better there. We think we did that, as well, this spring.”
The biggest change this season will come on offense as senior Hunter McManus, who did not play last fall, returns to the fold at quarterback. This allows Belton to become a jack of all trades as Jones tries to get the ball into the hands of his team’s chief playmaker in as many ways as possible.
The choice to move from quarterback to other slots on offense was one initiated by Belton during a conversation with his head coach.
“I can’t say enough about Shon Belton,” Jones said. “Shon’s been our starting quarterback for two years and he came to me and said, ‘Look, whatever we need to do to win. I’ll play whatever position you want me to play.’
“We’re moving him to the backfield to wide out to quarterback. The whole thing is centered around Shon, but having Hunter makes it work because Hunter’s such a good athlete. He’s back in the fold and has done exceedingly well. In the spring game, I think he threw four touchdown passes, which says a lot for a guy who hasn’t played in a year.”
Jones said last Friday’s spring game was a good starting point for his team’s 2013 campaign. The contest, which drew a large crowd to L-E Stadium, was going well until defensive back Vincent Stevenson, who started as a freshman last year, went down with a knee injury midway through the contest. While it put a damper on things, the L-E staff hopes to have Stevenson back in time for the upcoming season.
“Our goal was not to get anybody hurt and, dadgummit, we had one get hurt,” Jones said. “Vincent’s going to be a big-time player here the next two years.”
Stevenson’s injury notwithstanding, Jones declared spring ball a success as the Demons head into the off-season with a full head of steam and, confidence.
“We were trying to improve our football program from top to bottom and, we went in and we changed just about everything that we’ve been doing,” he said.” We’ve changed a good bit of our offense. We’ve renamed things and we tried to just relate better to the kids.
“(Spring football) ended as well as it could have for us.”


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