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Dixon, second half explosion lead L-E past MV

Demons right ship after trailing 21-12 by scoring 41 points after halftime

Posted: September 4, 2017 10:39 a.m.
Updated: September 5, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Photo courtesy of goflashwin.com/

GATLIN LAWSON CAUGHT THREE passes for 64 yards and added a 37-yard touchdown run in Lugoff-Elgin’s 53-35 win over Midland Valley on Friday night.

The future is now. And it couldn’t come soon enough.  

It was coming-out party of sorts for Lugoff-Elgin Friday night as freshman tailback Tyler Dixon was the exciting headliner in a 53-35 win over Midland Valley in the Demons’ home opener of the 2017 season. 

It did not start that way, however, as this was the tale of two halves in which L-E stormed back from a 21-12 halftime deficit to outscore the visiting Mustangs, 41-14, in the final 24 minutes of play. 

A different L-E team came out of that locker room in the second half, that’s for sure. And head coach Matt Campbell knows his team has more potential, even after this showing which gave his team a 2-1 record. 

“We were not executing and felt like we were going through the motions, at times,” he said of the Demons’ play in the opening half. “You can be a dominating team when you decide you want to do that. We came out more focused in second half which helped. You have to be the thermostat not that thermometer. You can’t see the temperature; you have to set the temperature as a team. “

It was the Tyler Dixon show in that second half as he blazed through defenders and up and down the field for 175 yards on just 16 carries. He paced the Demons as they exploded for 40 points in the second half. Dixon had a pair of those scores.

From someone who was brought up from the junior varsity just (last) week, it was a gutsy performance for a freshman. 

“I’ve been messing with Tyler all week,” Campbell said. “I would yell out to him that he’s going to carry the ball a lot and you have to be in shape. He’s got great vision and speed; a very talented player. He had a big night.” 

Dixon would put the Demons up for good with a 20-yard scoring up the middle with 16 seconds left in the half after a 70-yard kickoff return by Gatlin Lawson. Dixon’s run put the hosts on top, 31-28, going into the final stanza and the Demons never looked back as he tacked on another to put the game on ice with just three minutes left in the game. The final touchdown was from 11 yards away over the block of USC commit left tackle Wyatt Campbell down the near sideline. 

What also helped the Demons on this night was putting a former offensive lineman at fullback to help clear up the holes leading the backs. Senior Blake Crane got that chance and made the most of it. He even ran for seven yards on the very first play of the game. 

“Blake Crane got his feet wet,” Matt Campbell said. “You take an offensive lineman, give him a different number and let him play fullback and cut him loose. He adds a different element of physicality.” 

Crane helped L-E as the team rushed for more than 280 yards against the 0-2 Mustangs.

The Demons first half, however, was as forgettable as the double-digit loss to River Bluff the previous Friday. This time it wasn’t turnovers hurting the hosts. It was miscues on both sides of the ball and even on special teams. In the opening sequence, all three phases of the game were exposed by the opposition. 

Midland Valley’s first drive and score of the game came off an L-E special teams blunder. 

After the Demon offense sputtered going three and out, Josh Boone went back to punt and was tackled for a turnover on downs. From there, the Mustangs scored quickly; going just 30 yards in six plays. A 10-yard scoring strike from Tanner White to a wide open Michael O’Neal was the first touchdown of the contest. 

“We were just sloppy coming out the gate. We started off on defense and had seven errors early,” Campbell said of his team’s play. “We came out on offense and we had so many penalties and mistakes hurt us. I was very disappointed in everything in that first half. 

“Our special teams really hurt us. We have to correct that moving forward. We can’t afford to have our special teams put us in positions like we did tonight from returns to blocks.”

After the Demons responded and missed the extra point making it 7-6, MV got the ball again on the short field scoring on a five-yard Devonte Perry touchdown run set up by a huge kick return into Demon territory from Raekwon Jackson to the 35 to give the Mustangs the 14-6 lead. 

It was even uglier later in the half when the guests received a blocked punt for a touchdown with Jalen Riley going 35 yards on the scoop and score. The Mustangs caught the Demons unaware that the play was still alive rather than a dead ball which gave the visitors a 21-12 lead going into half.

Campbell said working on both the kicking and return games will be on his team’s agenda this week in practice. 

“We don’t have that kicker that can boot it in the end zone. We have to do whatever works for L-E right now,” he said. “We were trying to (kick) it high for a bit but it still puts them at the 40 yard line and the percentage of moving up the field goes up in terms of them scoring because they have a shorter field.”

Going into the half down nine, Campbell challenged his team in the locker room during the break. 

“I told them at half time they can be better than this,” he said. “I brought up our jayvee team and how that’s a group of guys that will just fight you.  And I said that’s the characteristic that we don’t have at that point in time. I want to see them push each other. 

“I told them I want to see them rally, hold each other accountable and fight. And that’s exactly what they did.” 

After recovering a fumble to start the third quarter, the Demons made it 21-18 quickly with a 13-yard scoring scamper by Reddek Kelley off a toss sweep nearside. 

Kelley has been a big contributor early for the Demons and he led the team with six tackles Friday, intercepted a pass and scored a touchdown to start the second half to bring the Demons within three points. 

For the second time in three weeks, Campbell praised the efforts of his 5-foot-8, 160-pound senior.

“Week in and week out he is a guy that does what we tell him to do whether its offense or defense. He is a solid player. You know what you get with Reddek Kelley,” Campbell said. “He is always high-effort and is a tough physical kid. He’s one of those kids where I wish we had more like him on the team.”

The fumble recovery on the kickoff leading to Kelley’s scoring run was just the spark L-E needed to get back in the game. “We had that talk at halftime and kids came out excited and that really helped that momentum and it happened so quick. We built on that and continued all the way till the end,” Campbell said of the fumble and its effect on his team. 

Another interesting storyline that has developed is that of the quarterback situation. Dixon wasn’t the only freshman who had a coming-out party. More Demon fans are getting to know ninth grade signal-caller Will Morris who rushed for two scores and threw for 149 yards in leading L-E to victory. Chandler Price, who has helped the Demons score this season in the air and on the ground, never took a snap under center in this game. 

Campbell would not say if Morris the guy moving forward under center. 

“I can’t say for sure,” said the third-year L-E head coach. “Chandler is a big part of our offense and what we do. Blake Smith went down (to injury) and Chandler played the majority of the game at tight end and did a great job for us. He did what we needed him to do tonight and Morris played well too.” 

Morris actually connected with Price on a touchdown on a screen pass behind the line of scrimmage which Price took 45 yards down the field for the score by outrunning defenders. Morris extended the Demon late in the fourth, making it 39-28 with a quarterback sneak which capped a 10-play, 90-yard drive on which were all running plays. 

After Jackson’s kickoff return for touchdown which brought the Mustangs within 39-35, Lawson helped L-E to get back up by two scores with an end-around running play going 37 yards for the touchdown. The track star had to be patient for the play to develop then used his quickness and speed to turn it on at just the right time to break away. 

While the L-E offense exploded for 41 second half points, credit must also be given to its defense which held the Mustang offense to just one score in the second half. The other came off Jackson’s kick return. 

“They only had 14 points in second half and one of them was off a return so the defense did their job tonight when we needed them,” Campbell said. “Our defense played very solid and got after the ball.” 

All in all, the Demons may not have gotten the start they wanted in this one but it’s how you finish that counts and they did just that. L-E now has an arsenal of weapons at its disposal. Bear in mind that even with Lawson, Dixon, Crane, Kelley and tailback Jasper Tucker carrying the ball on this night, the Demons still are awaiting a healthy Jay Lynch and Randall Brown to return from nagging injuries. With the defense finding its rhythm, the offense is realizing its full potential and a 50-point Friday night performance helps. 

“The more we develop (a running game), we will get better in the passing game,” Campbell said. “You know people will stack the box more and more. There were times we had two tight end sets and they had eight or nine guys in the box still on us.  We have to spread it around in the passing game and we have some athletes to do that. “

Demon Doings: The 52 points were the most points scored by the Demons since beating Darlington, 56-14, in the ninth game of the 2016 season … Unofficially, the Demon rushing attack piled up 287 yards with 175 of those coming from Dixon who added two scores … Morris threw just eight times but completed six of those for 149 yards and a touchdown. He also added two rushing touchdowns …  Lawson continues to be a big playmaker as he had three catches for 64 yards and the 37-yard touchdown later in the second half … The Demon defense held Midland Valley to just 45 yards rushing. Tanner White, however, went 17-of-27 for 128 yards passing with a touchdown but also an interception … After turning the ball over six times in a loss at River Bluff, L-E won the turnover battle Friday, 3-1. The Demons forced two fumbles while Kelley had an interception … Cameron Payne continues to have stellar season on defense as the senior outside linebacker had four tackles for loss of yardage … Kelley led the way with tackles along with his interception.

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