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Demons look to strike first blow against pass-happy Falcons

Posted: September 3, 2015 8:53 a.m.
Updated: September 4, 2015 1:00 a.m.
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CAM BENENHALEY ... L-E offensive lineman

g for something to hang your hat on, there is nothing better than playing with the lead and putting the pressure on your opponent.

That has been a script which Lugoff-Elgin, winner of just one of their past 36 football games heading into tonight’s contest at Nation Ford, has not been reading off recently. There is nothing better than going out and setting the tempo with an early touchdown or two and settling into your game plan.

That would be the optimal scenario for Matt Campbell and company who are looking for confidence by any means possible.

“These guys, over the last three to three and a half years,” said the first-year Demon head coach, “have played from behind. They haven’t had a lot of success and it’s hard to teach them how to play with success and how to be confident when they haven’t had it. We have to get something going. We have to create momentum and get it going in our favor. Hopefully, these kids will get (momentum), ride it and continue to ride it.”

In last Friday’s 35-14 loss to visiting Fort Mill, it was the Demons who took the wind out of their own sails by turning the ball over three times in their first four possessions including one in the Yellow Jacket red zone. Those kinds of mistakes cannot be anticipated on the practice field during the week and there are no drills which teach a young team how to react when things take a turn for the worst.

Campbell, though, said such miscues and in those large numbers, are a death knell for any football team’s chances of coming away with a victory, never mind one which is trying to create a new identity for itself and the program.

 “It comes down to accountability,” he said while using a word which his players have heard since he took over the helm of the program. “We had three turnovers in the first half and that is unacceptable. They also caught us on a surprise onside kick where they hit the roller. 

“Those are learning experiences. It’s not a technique or a fundamental kind of thing. It’s about a being in the game and knowing what’s going on type of thing. There are definitely ways to learn it. You hope you wouldn’t have to learn it in a game but we did. Hopefully, we can take what we learned and build on it. Hopefully, these kids will take what they learn from these mistakes and will put a lot of emphasis on eliminating these mistakes.”

Like two boxers who need a few rounds to feel each other out and learn what the other is trying to do, so has been the sorting out process for the Demons and their coaching staff. On Monday, after two games were in the books, L-E players were being given looks at other positions on the other side of the football as Campbell and company continue search for the right combination and get their 11 best players on the field at all times.

Finding out which players can do what is helping provide depth for a program which is trying to gain the trust of one another.

“I think these kids are still feeling us out and we’re still trying to break some old habits,” Campbell said of the relationship between coaches and players. “We’re pushing forward. We have a resilient staff and we’re very dedicated. They’re going to do what it takes to be successful. We understand that it’s not happening as fast as we’d like it to happen. 

“Obviously, we’d like to come out of the gates winning but that’s not happening. We are seeing improvement. We are seeing changes in attitude. That’s what we have and that’s what we’re trying to build on.”

The Demons can build on the improvement they made from the week zero game with Camden to last week. The mental errors, Campbell said, were far less against Fort Mill than the previous week. The same could be said for miscues along the offensive line and in assignment errors. More than anything, what pleased Campbell and company was the team’s tenacity.

 “I thought our kids played hard from start to finish which is one thing which is real important to us that we play with a high motor the entire game,” he said of last week’s contest. “There were plenty of things to build on and plenty of learning experiences for our guys. We’re taking them all, continuing to push and continuing to grow.”

Facing a team from Fort Mill for the second straight week, L-E will see a far different offensive attack out of Nation Ford than it did against Fort Mill.

The Falcons feature an explosive offense led by quarterback Cole Martin. In wide receiver Hank Tuipulotu, NF has the state’s leading receiver from 2014 while tight end Jordan Helms had 96 catches for more than 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns last fall. While the hosts have thrived in the passing game, its 3.3 yards per carry average in a 2-9 campaign last year was a number which head coach Mike Allen was hoping to improve on.

Even though more emphasis was placed on the rushing attack in the off-season, throwing the ball is the Falcons’ bread and butter and Campbell said he expects his secondary to be put to the test tonight. But the Demon boss was quick to point out that he likes who he has in his team’s final line of defense.

 “They do put it in the air a lot. We have to be sound in our coverages, in our drops and in our responsibilities,” he said of an NF unit which returned eight starters to the fold. “I have a lot of confidence in our secondary. They haven’t been challenged a whole lot as people have come at us with their running game. We had some learning experiences in the first game which helped us in the second game with our secondary.

“We have to be sound in our coverage but we also have to hold up against that run.”

As for the Demon offense, that unit has to keep the Falcons’ defense guessing by mixing in the running game with the passing attack. Junior tailback Rahmel Burton has provided L-E with a sound ground game while the team has flip-flopped between senior Hunter Campbell and sophomore Bradwin Salmond at quarterback the first two weeks of the season.

What the Demons have to do tonight is to sustain drives and keep the Falcon offense biding their time along the sidelines.

“They play a base coverage with two high safety look and their receivers are their secondary players,” Campbell said. “They are not as big up front on defense as they are on offense so we are going to have to pound that ball and by running the ball, it will create opportunities in our passing game.

“I’ve felt that Rahmel Burton has done a good job of running the ball. We’re doing a good job on first down. It’s on second and third downs where we have to see our improvements.”

 

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