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Demon defense shines in 21-17 win over Gators

Posted: August 29, 2016 3:05 p.m.
Updated: August 30, 2016 1:00 a.m.
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LUGOFF-ELGIN DEFENSIVE END Ahmad Bryant puts the finishing touches on River Bluff running back Vincent Smith (4) with this clothes line tackle in Friday’s L-E victory.

In sports, ups and downs are part of the game. From the momentum shifting to getting the ball to bounce your way, it’s all part of the whole package. 

In recent years, Lugoff-Elgin has been unable to be on that “up” or, hold on to that momentum or even have breaks to win many games. Friday was a different story. 

L-E fought hard and never quit, escaping their home field with a 21-17 victory over River Bluff at Lugoff-Elgin Stadium.

In his opening post-game comment, L-E head coach Matt Campbell immediately went into the adversity his team faced while holding a lead. 

“It was a night of ups and downs,” he said. “We went into halftime up 14-3 and there were times where we were stymied and stymied but we broke open a few big plays and runs. Some big plays were brought back due to penalties and we just tried to overcome it and fight.”

As mentioned by the second-year L-E head coach, the Demons led by two scores at halftime but a late rally by the Gators put them on the ropes and trailed by a field goal in the fourth quarter. 

It looked as if L-E (1-1) might lose another contest in which it got worn down late in the game and couldn’t finish. However, a 55 yard go-ahead touchdown run by Jermaine Jenkins with five minutes left gave the Demons the boost they needed. 

The defense shut down the Gators on back-to-back possessions to close out the win. 

On a night in which L-E forced five turnovers, the defense was the shining unit. 

“I can’t say enough about the way our defense came out and carried us during those tough times,” Campbell said following his second win on the Demons’ sidelines. “We got in the second half and I thought we could close it out. That’s not a situation our kids have been in very much at all. So, we go out there and struggle and they get up on us. But to see our kids rise up and push through and to be successful … that makes me so proud of our kids.”

The contest was extremely fast-paced due to both teams being run-heavy. The first half took only some 45 minutes to be completed. 

The Demon defense made its presence felt early in forcing two fumbles in the first quarter by Ahmad Bryant and Cameron Payne, respectively. On the ensuing drive following the second turnover, tailback Rahmel Burton got the scoring going, scoring on a run from 23 yards out, breaking free off the near side and into the end zone. The run capped a nine-play, 59-yard drive.

 While the offense will always get credit for the score, the L-E defense created plenty of havoc for the Gators along the line of scrimmage. The Demons had the difficult task of facing a wildcat-like offense in which Antonio Gantt, who is listed at running back, takes snaps from the quarterback position and was picking up five yards a carry. Then, the Gators threw in a pure drop back passer with very good arm strength. 

Campbell again praised his defensive unit but gave more credit to his staff. 

“I’m going tell you what,” he said, “Coach (Raymond) Jennings and the defensive staff really had a great game plan and I’m listening on the headset with them. He had the keys of wherever they are going to go and what they would run. He was just Johnny on the spot tonight.”

After yet another fumble recovered in the first half, the Demons put in a nice two-minute drill offense, scoring with 36 seconds left in the first half as Burton scored again, this time from 14 yards out capping off a five-play march which was set up by a 22-yard run by Jenkins. 

The 1-2 punch of Burton and Jenkins ran hard behind an offensive line that went through some changes during the week of practice. Wyatt Campbell went from offensive tackle to defensive end, leaving other linemen to step up. 

“We played better; I told them, again, you just can’t get content,” Campbell about his players on the offensive front.  

“We had a lot of room to run at times. I thought there was room for improvement after the Camden game and I still think we are making strides to be consistent. Instead of getting two yards here and there, we have to get three and four yards and stop being stymied so much.” 

Even with a 14-3 halftime lead, it did not feel safe in seeing as how the L-E offense struggled to maintain any type of momentum or drive for much of the second half. 

The quarterback position has been a battle late in this summer and into the season. The freshman Heath Erwin received a majority of the reps but junior Chandler Price is also an option and he received playing time on Friday  with Campbell evaluating his quarterback’s performances. 

“I thought they both came out and competed,” he said. “They both had highlights and lowlights and a lot of that actually came when we were switching them. You saw a lot of that when they slumped their shoulders and we took them out. 

“We don’t want these guys losing confidence out there. I don’t want a guy in there that doesn’t have confidence. These guys have not had very many starts at all so we have to build them up and support them with the running game.”

The Gators (1-1) finally got something going and punched it into the end zone for the first time getting a one-yard leap over the goal line from Gantt. The play was set up by a tremendous leaping grab by De’mone Spencer on third and 18 which was good for 35 yards. The play was initially supposed to be a fourth and three after a penalty. Instead, the Demons decided to accept it and push the visitors back and make them throw. 

“It looked like our (defensive back) was in good position,” Campbell said. “Our (defensive back) was behind the receiver but the guy just went up and played the ball well. 

“I accepted that penalty because I thought on that fourth and three (RB) Coach (David) Bennett would go for it and convert. They had been hitting two to four-yard yard runs on us that drive. I just thought if I backed them up we could hold them.”

The Gators would take a 17-14 lead midway thru the fourth with a 44-yard touchdown scamper by Ty’juan Glenn who broke free on the far side. 

All of a sudden, the wind was out of the sails for L-E and just like last week against Camden, the team with just 30 kids on the sideline seemed worn down and out of gas. But not this week. 

L-E fired right back with that 55-yard run by Jenkins at the 5:54 mark, capping a drive that started at their own 20. 

The Demons went up and relied on the defense which intercepted a pass and then later held strong on a fourth down play at midfield. 

After fighting inconsistency on offense and momentum shifts, L-E never quit and had confidence in a defense that a year ago allowed 36 points per game. It was a game to be proud of for a group of kids that are starting to believe. 

“I told them tonight to be proud of their achievement because it’s not many times that they’ve won in the varsity level,” Campbell said of his post-game talk to his players. “Be proud, enjoy it tonight and we’ll look at the film Saturday. 

“To only have 30 kids, they really laid it on the line. When we took the time out at the end of the game, I’m telling you our  (defensive) linemen our blowing but they sucked it up and got our backs. “  


Demon Doings: Before the game, there was a moment of silence for Lewis Simpkins, the 14-year-old River Bluff football player who passed away earlier this summer ... Both teams entered the field joined arm to arm and there was even the number 90 painted at midfield to honor the fallen player. “It was a great way for our kids and community to come together and remember that young man that passed, Lewis Simpkins,” Campbell said. “Our hearts just go out to the family and the team over there. It was the least we could do and I think our kids felt good about doing that before the game. If we lose the edge because we are remembering the young man that was  a loss I’m willing to take.” … The win was L-E’s first in the month of August since 2009 when the Demons defeated White Knoll in the season opener, 34-0 … Burton and Jenkins both eclipsed 100 yards rushing on the night. The two backs rushing and receiving combined for 276 total yards of the Demons’ 343 on the night … Defensively, Adam Rowson had another strong night with eight tackles including four for loss … Wyatt Campbell, in his first start on defense, tallied six stops while Payne added six more, including a sack ... The Demon defense allowed 273 yards to a River Bluff offense which turned the ball over five times in the loss … Glenn led the way on the ground with 128 yards on just 14 carries. Out of the wildcat set, Gantt who rushed for 227 in a week zero win over Chapin, was limited to just 65 yards on 14 touches. 


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