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Demons not in awe of Kellytown trip

Posted: October 12, 2017 1:33 p.m.
Updated: October 13, 2017 1:00 a.m.
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JAY LYNCH ... L-E fullback

These are the games that make those long hours spent lifting in the weight room and the days sweating it out on the practice field in the summer months all worthwhile.

Coming off what may well have been its most complete effort of the season, Lugoff-Elgin stayed perfect through two Region 6-4A contests with last Friday’s 34-16 victory over Crestwood. The win was also the second straight for the Demons, who improved to 5-3 overall.

The challenge gets a bump tonight when Matt Campbell and company head up Old Wire Rd. to Kellytown Stadium to take on once-beaten Hartsville in L-E’s first trip to the Foxes’ Den. The Red Foxes won their conference opener against Lakewood last Friday and still have three league games left. For the Demons, a win tonight would put them in the driver’s seat behind an 18-wheeler with only a trip to meet a one-win Darlington squad next week closing out the regular season slate.

Campbell, a self-avowed “one game, one week at a time guy”, knows that, for all intents and purposes this contest may well be the de facto region championship. Even Campbell said this was not your ordinary week of practice in the West Wateree.

“It’s what you prepare for … it’s your goal,” he said of playing in a game with so much hanging in the balance. “Our kids have done a great job. We’ve had some highs and lows and been kind of up and down but with the way the region lays out and with the way the playoff system is, those first six games are kind of warm-up games, more or less and we take them all seriously.

“To be in this position, though, we’re excited about it. We know that (Hartsville) is kind of the measuring stick in this region.”

Two weeks ago, as his team prepared to take on Lakewood in a game which L-E won, 14-12, Campbell talked about his squad putting together four complete quarters. On that night, the Demon defense rose to the occasion and helped preserve a 14-6 first quarter lead.

Last Friday, everything came together for L-E which wired the visiting Knights in going on for the 18-point win. Make that, almost everything.

“Last week was the first time which, I felt, all three phases of our game were good,” said the third-year Demon boss. “We did give up a blocked punt last week but it was my fault. We had a guy that was out and we threw a guy in there who had never done it before. That was my error. I should have called a time out or, taken the delay of game to make sure that we were lined up right. Instead, in haste, I threw a guy out there and we got the punt blocked.”

Even more attention to detail was on the agenda for the Demons heading into tonight’s pairing. All L-E has to do is to think back to last year’s game with Hartsville at L-E Stadium. On that night, the hosts fumbled deep in their own territory and had a punt blocked which led to a pair of early Red Fox scores as Jeff Calabrese’s team jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the opening four minutes and would escape with a 28-14 win.

“Against a really good football team, like Hartsville is … they’re well-disciplined and well-coached,” Campbell said, “you can’t have those kinds of mistakes. You have to make every opportunity count.”

Hartsville, ranked third in the latest 4A state poll and whose only blemish is a 35-21 loss to Conway in game four, carries a three-game win streak into tonight’s meeting. Included in that run are wins over Marlboro County as well as a 28-21 victory against AA state championship favorite Abbeville two week ago.

Junior tailback Tiyon Evans is the hosts’ go-to back and chief big-play threat in both the ground and passing game for an offense which has several of them. Collins Bishop is another 200-pound back who will line up behind quarterback A.J. Joyner (6-2, 190). While the Red Foxes look to beat teams with their rushing game, Campbell said his defense can ill afford to get caught staring into the backfield while adding the key for his defense tonight is making sure the Red Fox offense earns everything it gets while limiting the amount of game-breaking plays.

“They pound it and they run it. They’re really efficient and they are really good at what they like to do. You can tell that they’ve repped it a lot; they’re really smooth,” Campbell said of an HHS offense which averages better than 31 points per game. 

“Then, after they start hammering it in there and you’re focused on the run, they will hit you with the pass. We really have to stay in the game.”

On the other side of the football, the Red Fox defense has allowed an average of 18 points per game and features a front line led by sophomore end/tackle Demonte Capehart (6-4, 245). Hartsville also has speed at linebacker and good size and athleticism in the secondary which can disrupt the oppoing offense.

“Their linebackers are really downhill, physical players who are going to bring pressure on you off the edges,” Campbell said. “They’re athletic in the skill slots, at corners and safety. They have a lot of talent and solid players who can run.

“One thing you see when you watch them on film is that they’re a very physical team.”

Having faced Hartsville last year and not backing down in that contest is one thing the Demons have in their corner. Even though this game is in Kellytown, where the Red Foxes are nearly unbeatable, Campbell believes his veteran team will not be intimidated by their surroundings and are ready to embrace the challenge which they will have in front of them this evening.

“It’s something we’ve put a heavy emphasis on. We told our kids that if we want to reach our goal (of winning a region championship), it has to happen this week,” he said. “Our kids are focused and, I think, that they’re playing with a little confidence. There are a lot of teams which, for lack of a better term, might be afraid of Hartsville; Hartsville’s a good team but I think that last year, our kids found out that they could go out and compete with them.

“We just have to play a good game. We have to be efficient on offense and we have to make every opportunity count on defense.

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