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Demons lose lead, heartbreaker to Wolves

Posted: September 28, 2013 2:56 p.m.
Updated: September 30, 2013 5:00 a.m.

All that stood between Lugoff-Elgin and winning its first game of the season and ending one of the toughest dry spells this program has seen was 30 seconds.
With the football at the L-E four-yard line,  White Knoll connected on a touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone to give the guests the go-ahead score, as well as their first and only lead of the contest. The 24-20 score held up and kept the Demons winless through their first five games of the season. The victory kept WK perfect through five contests.
After yet another loss, L-E head coach Scott Jones said he knows his team’s skid is so close to coming to an end.
“It’s going to happen at some point,” he said. “Coach (Dean) Howell (the WK head coach) came over and spoke to our team right after the loss, which is very unusual, and told our kids that they (L-E) outplayed them (White Knoll) and they were out-coached and that maybe the best team didn’t win tonight.
“I appreciated that. He knows it’s been tough times here. They have a class program over at White Knoll. “
So close but coming up short meant something had to break down for the Demons.
A Demons’ personal foul penalty for roughing the passer turned a third and 14 into a first and goal inside the five for White Knoll which led to that unforgiving touchdown score with exactly 28 seconds left in the game.
“It was close,” Jones said of the pivotal call. “You know, I don’t think it was a bad call. It was just unfortunate. The young man tried real hard and just hit the guy a little bit late. It was just one of those things.
“One play does not make a ballgame, but that was a tough one to swallow. If we execute early in the third and don’t have to kick a field goal … you know it’s hard to say one play did it.”
This was a night in which the Demons played their best football of the season and the best-executed game plan in quite some time. L-E ran different formations and looks on offense while also playing much improved on the defensive side of the ball.
Jones explained the changes made to his offense.
“Well, with (Daniel) Quattlebaum out, we had to do something different,” he said. “We realized our limitations and we tried to make it simple for our guys on offense to understand.
“The thing for us is to be a two tight end team and give our skill people a break; take one extra skill person off the field so that they can help us on defense. I think it worked out well for us for the most part. (Tight end) Chase (Hunter) is a better blocker than Elliott (Campbell) right now, he has more experience but we tried to get those guys involved more. Elliott and Chase both can catch too.”
The two teams traded long possessions in a scoreless first quarter with each offense taking the football the length of the field, only to come up short on fourth downs near the red zone.
The Demons jumped to a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter, however, and looked poised early. Touchdown runs of six and 14 yards by senior quarterback Shon Belton put the hosts up two scores with four minutes remaining in the first half.
The drives were mostly runs out of the I formation and a wildcat-like set in which Belton took the direct snap and ran off left or right tackle. It was a steady dose of sophomore Aldrecio Wells on these drives too, getting only his second start of the season. Wells ran for 90 yards on 21 carries, mostly off of a sweep play.
“I thought Aldrecio Wells played his tail off … I’m so proud of him,” Jones said. “We changed the offense for him, a little. These guys are young and what we do in the Wing-T is pretty complicated so we have to be better teachers.
“I just felt like we could get in the I and do some things and, (Wells) proved that it’s the thing for us. Then, we’ll mix it up with wildcat there too. “
The Timberwolves would respond right before the half with a drive of their own. It was a fast-moving six-play, 49-yard drive finished off by a Quin Jones 14-yard at the 1:34 mark of the second stanza which cut the L-E lead in half, at 14-7, heading into intermission.
The final 24 minutes of games have plagued the Demons so far this season. In the last two games, they have been especially difficult. Two weeks ago against West Florence, L-E led 14-10 only to give up 21 unanswered. Then a week later against rival Camden, the Demons trailed by a touchdown to eventually lose by four scores.
Turnovers and penalties led to those setbacks, and in the first half against White Knoll, neither had been committed yet. 
Jones knew the changes and hard work in practice were showing minor rewards.
“We eliminated a lot of turnovers that we had last week. We held onto the ball much better,” Jones later said. “We played about as good as we can play, to tell you the truth.”
Taking the second half kickoff, the Demons would go the length of the field, continuing to execute the game plan on offense with efficient runs and positive yardage and most importantly, no penalties.  A 40-yard Andrew Place field goal padded the lead to 17-7 with 7:27 left in the third.
You could feel the excitement in the stadium, as the Demons were firmly in control. Jones joked that even the officials may have been secretly rooting for the Demons. “I think the referees even wanted us to win,” he said. “They usually don’t of course, but even the crew came over after the game and told us they hated that we lost this one.”
The sides then exchange field goals of 25 and 29 yards by White Knoll and Place, respectively before the Timberwolves would make it tight and interesting with a late touchdown. The visitors cut the deficit to three by going 60 yards in four plays. A five-yard Jones run made it a 20-17 game with 7:51 left in the contest.
Later in the quarter, Emmonti Payne intercepted a pass on third down with just over two minutes left.
Remembering how L-E moved the ball earlier, most would have thought the game was close to going over. And the home crowd became loud. Even the coach thought the game was on ice.
“I thought when we stopped them and had the interception there I really thought we had the game won,” Jones said. “All we had to was get a first down. We just couldn’t close the deal.
“We all thought we had it in the bag. If we would have gotten one more first down we probably would have iced it and won it. We just couldn’t do it.”
Then came the penalties. Give credit to the White Knoll defense for sniffing out three runs by L-E and forcing losses before an ill-timed delay of game penalty led to a short 15-yard punt. That led to the eventual aforementioned personal foul penalty, leading to the game-winning touchdown with 28 seconds left, with Craig Blakey hitting Calev Grubbs in the corner for a sliding grab.
The Demons had one final crack at it getting the ball down in the red zone, but the drive stalled with a scrambling fumble to end the game at the 18 yard line.
“We had the mistake,” Jones said of the game’s final sequence. “The penalty down there that gave them an opportunity … Dean Howell told me he would have kicked a field goal to tie it up.
“Our kids never quit, they didn’t give up. I thought Shon did a good job there getting us close, we just couldn’t get it in.”
Trying to put a lid on the loss, the head man of the Demons knows this season is long from over considering region play kickoffs in two weeks.
“I don’t have much else to say other than that we really are getting better and that we have one more non region game and then we go into region,” he said. “Hopefully, by then, we’ll have some kinks worked out and get better. “

Demon Doings: As you can imagine with game like this, the stats were close to even. White Knoll was balanced on offense with 164 on the ground and 158 thru the air for a total of 322 total yards. L-E had 312 on offense, getting 211 in the ground game … L-E had 15 first downs while White Knoll had 16 … Time of possession was narrowly led by the Demons as they had it for 26:48 while the Timberwolves had it for 21:12 … L-E had two penalties for 13 yards whereas WK was penalized three times for just 30 yards … L-E also forced two turnovers.

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