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Demons hope to celebrate homcoming with a win

Posted: October 23, 2014 4:20 p.m.
Updated: October 24, 2014 1:00 a.m.
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KYLE HIX ... L-E linebacker

Homecoming is that Catch-22 for a head football coach. He must walk a fine line between allowing his players to enjoy the week-long festivities while also making sure their minds are on Friday night’s game.

While he has been a part of some 19 previous teams which were preparing for their homecoming game, this is the first time in which interim Lugoff-Elgin head coach Dave Thomas has been responsible for making sure an entire team, rather than one part of the squad, was all on the same page when it came to homecoming.

Tonight, Thomas and the Demons will host Ridge View with the hosts hoping to send the alumni home with smiles on their faces. That, Thomas said, is the main objective for his players. But he also wants them to experience what is part of the overall high school experience with their fellow students.

"One thing I told them is ‘don’t get distracted,’" Thomas said of his advice to his team on this homecoming week. "I told them to have fun with the homecoming stuff because they’re kids and they need to do that. But they need to understand that at 3:15 (p.m. each day), it’s time for football.

"We have so many young kids playing that I really have not seen a difference as far as practice and attitude with everything else going on."

While the hosts are searching for their first win of the season, things are hardly hunky-dory at Ridge View. After an 0-2 start to the season, the Blazers rattled off back-to-back wins over Irmo and Nation Ford to even their record. Since then, Raymond Jennings’ squad has sustained lopsided losses to, in order, South Florence, North Augusta, Dutch Fork and Westwood.

As for the Demons, they are coming off a 40-14 setback at the hands of Spring Valley in a game in which the Vikings reeled off 40 straight points to open the scoring. Thomas was concerned about his team’s psyche following that game, only to be pleasantly surprised when he returned to the practice field on Monday.

"We’ve had two good days of practice, so far," Thomas said in a Wednesday morning interview, "that was one thing I was worried about after the game on Friday; not coming out and performing. I was worried about their mental state.

"So far, it’s been good. The kids have been working hard and we’ve thrown some new wrinkles in on offense and, so far, so good."

The Demons are looking to get a struggling offense going this week against what has suddenly become a porous Blazer defense. A week ago, L-E received a shot in arm from the return of junior tailback Aldrecio Wells in the running game. Before that, sophomores Rahmel Burton, Jermaine Jenkins and Andre Martin had the individual turns with solid performances.

The trick now, Thomas said, is to get all his team’s back, including quarterbacks Keyshawn Martin and Gunnar Catoe, to have a big game on the same night.

"We missed Al (Wells) for a couple weeks," Thomas said. "Having just Jermaine, Andre and Rahmel in the backfield, three sophomores, makes it a little more difficult, even though they are giving us all they’ve got; I haven’t questioned their effort, at all.

"Having another guy that you can rotate in there, certainly, helps a lot; especially, with Aldrecio all his speed. If we can contain him a little bit, once he gets to the edge and not throw the brakes on and just keep running, I think we’ll be OK."

Coming into the season, it was thought that Ridge View’s defense was to have been the strength of the Blazers’ team. That group has struggled, recently, for whatever reason. When he watches the Blazers on film, Thomas sees a defense which has talent and athletes which can create havoc.

"They’re physical," he said of Ridge View’s 4-3 defensive scheme. "They have a good front and a good linebacker. They’ll come up and hit us."

While talking about the Ridge View defense, Thomas said it is not the team on the other side of the line which has held down the Demons as much as many of L-E’s problems have been of the self-inflicted variety.

"It’s really not the other team, it’s been us," Thomas said of his team’s problems on offense. "We kind of beat ourselves by not making blocks, not staying on blocks, not making the right read and not running to the correct spot.

"It’s still a learning process for us on offense."

With a revolving door system at quarterback, the Blazers have relied on the ground game this season. The guests are expected to line up in the I-formation and will sometimes employ a two tight end set to help with the blocking chores.

But Ridge View has talented wide outs, which make for attractive targets for whoever is under center. Over the past four weeks, however, the Blazers have fallen behind early in the game and have been forced to scrap the running attack and put the ball in the air.

"They’ve had some issues with injuries at quarterback. They’ve been shuffling people in and out there," Thomas said of the Blazers’ offensive woes. "They have a couple receivers who they like to throw it to and they will spread it out from time to time."

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