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Demons survive Gators, 14-12, as Kelley blocks field goal try on game’s final play

Posted: October 2, 2017 3:23 p.m.
Updated: October 3, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

L-E LINEBACKER TYRIK RICHARDSON (33) comes up with a Lakewood fumble at his own eight yard line in second quarter action from Friday’s 114-12 Demon victory. Also pictured are L-E defenders Marcus Jackson (18) and Rahmik McDonald (9).

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It was a long shot at best but given the circumstances, it was one which Lakewood felt was best to take.

With time, the scoreboard and real estate in Lugoff-Elgin’s favor, the visiting Gators trotted out freshman Thomas Burkott to attempt a 41-yard field goal with 4.7 seconds left and Lakewood trailing, 14-12. After an L-E time out, Burkott’s low kick was batted away by Reddek Kelley, sealing the deal on the two-point Demons’ victory which sent the large Homecoming crowd away happy.

Burkott’s try, in which the tee was set up less than six yards from the line of scrimmage, was the final snap of a nerve-wracking final LHS drive in which the guests traveled 45 yards on 14 plays and ate up the final two minutes and 13 seconds of the game clock.

The game-closing series was one in which Gators’ quarterback Malik Richardson, whose first two of three passes of the night went for interceptions, suddenly got the hot hand. The 6-foot-4 junior clicked on five of his eight attempts for 49 yards with three of those coming to 6-foot-5 wide out Quentin Hodge, including the final one, a 10-yard strike to the 25 which set up the potential game-winning field goal.

The lack of available time left LHS with little choice than to call on the foot of Burkott, whose first and only PAT try of the night was blocked. Seeing the Gator kicker come onto the field was a bit of a relief for L-E head coach Matt Campbell given the fact that the outcome would not be decided by either Richardson --- who ran for 154 yards on 30 carries --- or, the rangy Hodge.

When asked if he thought Burkott had enough leg to get the ball through the uprights, Campbell admitted to being unsure until he thought back to the one occasion Burkott kicked when facing a rush.

“I didn’t know,” he said. “I thought about his kickoffs but I also thought about the pressure which we brought on him (on the PAT) kick. That was big-time play in the game for us to get in there and block it. 

“Mentally, I think both myself and my coaches, thought that it was four-down territory and they were going to go for the end zone. We called a time out to get everybody where we needed to get them and the kids did a good job of getting pressure in there and we blocked it.”

The win in the Region 6-4AA opener for both sides snapped a two-game skid for the 4-3 Demons whose defense was on the field for 73 snaps as the Gators piled up 404 yards in offense in spite of turning the ball over four times. L-E capitalized on the first of those miscues while jumping to a quick 14-7 lead with just under three minutes to play in the first quarter.

The quick start was exactly what Campbell was looking for but he could not have expected those to be his team’s only two scores of the evening. The Demon offense had 229 yards to show for 43 plays.  

If you are looking for the fly in the ointment, take a gander at penalties as the hosts were flagged 17 times for 126 yards. L-E was whistled for seven holding calls and a chop block which stunted potential scoring chances.

Campbell was in no mood for dispute the calls in a game in which the two sides combined for 28 infractions.

“It was unbelievable,” he said of the penalties which caused his offense to stop-start. “I have to see the film but I don’t think there were terrible calls. We were out of position, not moving our feet and not getting to where we needed to be. We have a lot of work to do but I’ll reserve judgment on (the penalties) until I take a look at the film on Sunday.”

For all their mistakes, the Demons were on the receiving end of one from LHS to start the game. 

The Gators took the opening kicking and marched from their own 19 to the L-E 19 on 11 consecutive running plays. On second and seven from the 19, Richardson kept on the read option and lost the football which bounced into the waiting arms of L-E defensive end Ahmad Bryant who grabbed the loose ball at his own 21 and rambled to the Gators’ seven before being dragged down after 72 yards.

The penalty bug hit the Demons early with a chop block and a holding call on the first two snaps setting the ball at the 32. On the first play which counted, freshman quarterback Will Morris went up top and lofted a strike to tight end Chandler Price, who went over a pair of defenders to make the grab in the end zone with 6:48 showing on the first quarter clock. Freshman Alex Bowers then booted home the first of his two PAT kicks for the 7-0 lead.

Richardson made his presence felt on the ensuing series as on the second play of the drive, he went through the middle of the defense and legged his way for a 75-yard touchdown. Burkott’s extra point try was batted down by freshman lineman Ethan Hix, preserving a 7-6 lead at the 5:57 mark of the opening stanza.

After having a short field with which to work on its first score, the Demons had a lengthier trip on their second possession which started from their own 45. A 10-yard Tyler Dixon carry opened thing before Morris went for 12 more to the LHS 33. On second and 15 from the 38, Morris found Dixon out of the backfield for a gain of 13. Dixon then picked up the first down with a five-yard carry.

The drive stalled, temporarily, as L-E faced a fourth and 11 from the 21. On that play, Morris handed the ball to Kelley, who was coming off the flank and bolting right. Kelley then lateraled to Gatlin Lawson, who sprinted left and into the end zone on the double reverse as the Demons took a 14-6 lead with 2:52 to play in the first quarter.

“That’s a play which we’ve run a couple times this year and Gatlin’s pretty good at it,” Campbell said. “Everybody’s loading the box on us; everybody’s pursuing hard because we run a lot of sweeps. I thought that backside end was pursuing pretty good. I threw that out there to Coach (Hark (L-E offensive coordinator Tim Harkness) and he liked the idea. At that point, I didn’t want to kick a field goal.”

Playing with a tenuous eight-point cushion, the L-E defense came up big time and time again.

The Gators followed up the go-ahead score by marching to the L-E 14. On third and seven from there, L-E linebacker Tyrik Richardson scooped up a fumble at his own eight to stunt the Gator scoring threat.

On the visitors’ next series, midway in the second quarter, Richardson’s first pass of the night was picked off by Elijah Manigo-Wood at the Gator 45. The Demon offense, however, was unable to take advantage of the opportunity and punted back to LHS who followed suit as L-E went on the offensive at its own 47 with 1:40 left in the half. A 35-yard Morris to Lawson strike down the middle of the field was good for a first down at the Gators’ 14.

Looking at a fourth and two from the six and with less than five seconds left, Campbell sent out Bowers whose 22-yard field goal try had the distance but missed right as L-E carried a 14-6 lead into the break.

The Demons’ offensive struggles continued in the second half while their defense continued to be opportunistic. Richardson’s third pass attempt of the game came on a fourth and nine from the L-E 38 and was picked off, again, by Manigo-Wood at his own 11 with 6:52 left in the third quarter.

After another exchange of punts, the Gator defense came up with an interception from Deandrae Mack at his own 37 with 10:13 left in the game. Fifteen plays and 63 yards later, Lakewood cashed in with Lamont Dudley going over from the four on a first and goal carry with 4:13 showing on the game. The Demons took down Richardson while trying to pitch the ball on the two-point conversion play.

The L-E offense was unable to get a first down to all but salt this one away as Josh Boone was called on to punt. The senior sent the ball to Jaron Richardson at the LHS 19. Richardson returned the punt 11 yards before being tackled at the 30 by Boone with 2:13 left.

Richardson started finding his groove with his arm as he hooked up with Trevon Cowell for 11 yards on fourth and 10 from the 30 to extend the drive. A 13-yard strike to Hodge followed with a 10-yard completion back to Hodge on fourth and 10 giving the guests a fresh set of downs at the L-E 36 with 39.8 ticks left in the game clock.

Hix came up big on first down as the freshman recorded his second sack of Richardson, this for a nine-yard loss. Richardson came right back with a 15-yard completion to Hodge  and then a 10-yard hookup with his favorite target at the 25 with 4.7 seconds left, leading LHS boss Larry Cornelius to try for a field goal; taking the ball out of Richardson’s hands.

With tailback Dajon Howard injured in the first quarter, the Gators had to change things up on offense which meant more pass patterns and relying more on Richardson on the ground. Not seeing Richardson have the ball with the game on the line was a relief to Campbell. Richardson gave L-E fits with by hitting on six of his 13 attempts for 73 yards to go along with his 154 yards on the ground.

“He is a big, athletic kid who runs really well,” he said. “He’s going to pose a lot of problems for a lot of people. Unfortunately, they lost one back (Howard) to an injury early in the game and they had to put a lot on (Richardson.)

“After we figured things out, we hindered him a little bit but when you have a player with that kind of ability, you’re not going to stop him.”

While LHS went for better than 400 yards, Campbell was complimentary of his defense which was put in some tough situations. The Demon defensive unit forced four turnovers and was on the field of 41 of the game’s 57 second half snaps.

“Our defense did a great job,” he said. “They were getting us the ball and we were taking advantage of it, a little bit, but it seemed like after the first quarter, we petered out. I take my hat off to our defense; I thought they played hard from the beginning to the end of the game and put us in the position we were in at the end of the game.”

Demon Doings: After having rushed for 175 yards in a loss to Lancaster the previous week and having a 200-yard game to his credit, L-E freshman tailback Tyler Dixon had 59 yards on 15 carries. Morris was next with 10 carries for 39 yards … Morris completed five of his 12 passes for 101 yards … Price, who also took snaps at quarterback, had two catches for 49 yards from his tight end post, including the 32-yarder for a touchdown … The L-E offense ran just 16 plays in the second half after 27 in the first 24 minutes … L-E had seven plays of more than 10 yards while the Gators had 14 … After his 75-yard scoring run in the first quarter, Richardson did not have a carry which went for more than 10 yards the rest of the night … Tyrik Richardson led the L-E defense with 19 stops --- eight solo --- followed by fellow junior linebacker Caiman Welch with 17, of which eight were solo … Ahmad Bryant was in the street clothes in the second half after suffering an injury in the first quarter ... With the concession stand and the Food Truck Rodeo which L-E’s Trident Club sponsored prior to the game, L-E Stadium was filled with a State Fair-like food scent during pre-game.

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