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Demons celebrate homecoming and, end of a skid

Posted: October 12, 2013 1:41 p.m.
Updated: October 14, 2013 5:00 a.m.

The streak is finally over.
After nearly two full seasons of games, dating back to week five of the 2011 campaign, the losing skid has ended. Something had to give, and something finally did as two winless teams went against one another on Friday night at Lugoff-Elgin Stadium.
On homecoming at Lugoff-Elgin, the host Demons gave a complete team performance to defeat Richland Northeast, 31-10, and start region play off with a victory. Equally important, the victory snapped a 22-game spell of setbacks for L-E.
For a coach who has had to find words after two seasons’ worth of losses, L-E head coach Scott Jones was almost speechless after the win. It was as if he was taking it all in trying to enjoy it. But can you blame him? It’s been since a 17-10 win over White Knoll in week five of the 2011 season that Jones has been able to talk about a victory for his club.
“The guys did a great job,” he said. “We’ve been close a few times: We had that White Knoll team beat a few weeks ago and didn’t win the game. And you know, we’re learning out there, week in and week out. I thought our front defensive line people and offense played well. The coaches did a good job of getting our guys where they needed to be tonight, too.”
You immediately got the feeling something was different about L-E on this night. It started with the game’s first snap as the Demon defense forced a fumble and grabbed the early momentum and gave their offense the ball at the RNE 30 yard line. The defense played one of, if not their best game of the season and Jones credited his coaches for that.
“I thought our defensive coaches just got us in the right position,” he said. “We tweaked some things and hammered that defense in practice of where it needed it be. We have young guys back there and they kind of stepped it up for the first time.”
It didn’t take long for the Demons to find the end zone after the first play turnover as senior quarterback Shon Belton found his new favorite target, Emmonti Payne, for a nine-yard touchdown on a crossing route. And just like that, the Demons jumped out to a 7-0 lead with 9:52 left in the opening quarter.
The Cavaliers, however, would respond with a drive of their own. This is a team who has also had some struggles of late, losing 10 games in a row coming into this contest; a rare dry spell for a proud program led by Coach Jay Frye.
The opposition drove it 57 yards in nine plays before settling for a short 26-yard field goal to trim the deficit to 7-3, some six minutes into the game. Then the two teams exchanged multiple possessions, feeling each other out on offense.
“Our O (offensive) line was having trouble at times. That RNE defensive line kind of took away some of our good stuff early there and we had to really kind of dig at halftime and find some wrinkles,” Jones said.
“The passing we did wasn’t a lot, but it was enough to keep them honest.”
The next score would not come until midway through the second quarter with the Demons taking a 14-3 lead as Belton found tight end Chase Hunter for a 23-yard touchdown on a broken play as Belton had to scramble to buy more time.
“Shon had some really good decisions tonight where he threw the ball out of bounds,” Jones said. “When he was a sophomore, he would not do that; he may have thrown it up for grabs. But now he has certainly matured as a quarterback and as the leader of our team.”
The Cavaliers would respond to end the opening 24 minutes of play on what would be their best, and last scoring drive of the game. The guests went 77 yards on 10 plays capped off by a nine-yard touchdown pass from Simeon Kelly to B.J. Dickerson with just 35 seconds left in the half which ended with L-E holding a 14-10 advantage. On the drive, Kelly made some big plays with his legs.
“That guy there is as big as a Volkswagen, man,” Jones said of the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Kelly. “I thought our kids did a good job of trying to wrap up and bring him down. He’s big, a huge quarterback and just a thick kid. He seems about as wide as I am, so that’s pretty big.”
In the second 24 minutes of play, the Demons would dominate as they did not allow a score on defense yet continuing to pile on the scores to extend their lead.
After an Andrew Place 31-yard field goal to finish off a 12-play drive, making the deficit a full touchdown at 17-10, the Demons got the ball right back and scored again.
This time, it took just one play with Belton taking the direct snap, quarterback keeper and going down the near sideline for 80 yards. That put the hosts on top, 24-10, with 5:45 left in the third stanza. The sparkling run just about capped off a great night for the three-year starter who rushed for 175 yards on 20 carries.
Jones’ eyes widened when talking about Belton’s electrifying run.
“That was big,” he said. “He busted that off there and I thought that, at the time, it might have been the nail in the coffin.
“Shon’s great. He has a lot of talent. And you know there’s going to be some college out there that’s going to want Mr. Belton before this is over.”
The Demon defense held their own limiting the Cavs’ offense in between the 20s; forcing multiple punts and two turnovers on downs. Jones was proud in particular of two standout Demons on that side of the football.
“They weren’t the only ones,” he said, “but I thought Illichris Gordon and Geremiah Montgomery played their souls off out there tonight. We didn’t make some tackles again, and I’m a little disappointed at that, but the effort was certainly there. And that’s something to be excited about moving forward.”
One Cavalier drive ended on a Demon interception by Maleek Lyles. This set up the final score and dagger that sealed the deal for the Demons.
Payne, making only his second start at fullback, has been a great addition to the L-E offense making plays on the ground and in the passing game. Payne took a third and 10 handoff up the middle for a 35-yard touchdown run.
Later, Jones talked about his new star at fullback.
“The stats won’t show it for him tonight because Emmonti was the blocker,” he said of Payne. “As a fullback, you don’t get the glory but he had some good blocks. He was going against a mule of a linebacker.”
“He really manned up there and our coaches got him prepared. And he also had some bumps and bruises coming into this one too. But his run there helped seal the deal. I was glad we could get him the ball and let him take off.”
With a 31-10 lead and the game in hand, it came time for the Demons to line up in what most people consider the “victory formation” as Belton took a knee and the clock fell to double zeros.
And as one streak ended on this night, maybe it’s possible another one can begin. Jones has been here before and is very aware of what lies ahead.
“It’s the first region win,” he said, “we’re in the same boat we were two years ago. We just have to take it one game at a time. And we really feel like we can compete with anyone in our region. I’m just so proud of our kids tonight.”

Demon Doings:  Belton was the star on Friday night. The senior was 8-for-13 passing for 92 yards and two touchdowns. But on the ground, he was lethal as he had 20 carries 175 yards, including the 80-yard scoring jaunt  … L-E Demons racked up 338 total yards with 246 of those on the ground … Defensively, the hosts limited RNE to just 223 yards of offense …  L-E had 11 first downs to 14 for the Cavs. The Demons were flagged seven times for 41 yards while RNE had four penalties for 40 yards … The Cavs had two turnovers while L-E had none … Defensively, Gordon and Lyles had seven tackles each and both had a few tackles for loss with Gordon forcing a fumble.

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