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Demons hoping to crash a Stag party

Berkeley carries 10-game win streak into second round pairing

Posted: November 7, 2017 2:26 p.m.
Updated: November 10, 2017 1:00 a.m.
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BRADWIN SALMOND ... L-E wide receiver

There are two schools of thought on being an underdog; some teams embrace it while others take it as a sign of impending doom.

Matt Campbell, however, adds another choice. The third-year Lugoff-Elgin head football coach simply disregards the label.

In any instance, based on record and seeding, Campbell and the Demons will not have the pressure of being the favorite hanging around their neck like a millstone when they make the trip to the Lowcountry tonight to meet Berkeley in the second round of the 4A Lower State playoffs.

The host Stags have not lost since being taken down by a Daniel squad, which entered the 4A Upper State playoffs as a four seed, 17-10. That setback came in the Week Zero opener for both sides on Berkeley’s home turf. Since then, Randy Robinson’s troops have rattled off 10 consecutive victories including last week’s 21-7 win over Marlboro County in their postseason opener.

L-E (7-4) comes into this pairing as a two seed after finishing second behind Hartsville in Region 6-4A. The Demons head to Moncks Corner tonight having won four of their last five games with the most recent of those being a 38-21 dismantling of Dreher a week ago at L-E Stadium.

Campbell said neither he nor his coaching staff used the “U” word in practice this week. Instead, it has been business as usual in the West Wateree.

“We don’t talk about the underdog role,” Campbell said. “We know and, it has shown in our games, that we have to control what we can control and with what we do with our execution, whether it’s on offense, defense or, special teams. 

“The games where we have gone out and executed the way that we were supposed to do have turned out the way we’ve wanted them to. When that’s not there it, obviously, makes it a little tougher. We really put a lot of focus on us and try to put more focus on being detail-oriented at this time of the year and try to place more emphasis, offensively, the little things like head placement, footwork  and things like that. Defensively, it’s the same thing; gap control, knowing where you are supposed to be and knowing what leverage you are supposed to be playing with.”

Since its season-opening hiccup, Berkeley has caught fire on both sides of the football. During their current win streak, the Stags are averaging scoring better than 38 points per game while allowing opponents a shade over 18 points an outing. 

In spite of posting a perfect 5-0 mark in winning Region 8, the Stags were seriously tested on two occasions. They defeated Hilton Head Island, 21-16, before being extended to overtime before coming away with a 30-27 road win at Cane Bay two weeks ago in a game for the conference crown.

In last Friday’s pairing with Marlboro County, the visiting Bulldogs changed up their entire offensive scheme and jumped to a 7-0 lead before the Stags made defensive adjustments and stymied Dean Boyd’s offense.

Campbell will not try a similar ploy as did Marlboro County, which was a four seed.

“Marlboro County …,” Campbell said while smiling, “I don’t know. It was a mixture between a scrum and a double-wing. It was effective on their opening drive; they took it about 80 yards down the field and got the score. It caught (BHS) off guard but, eventually, they caught on and defended it well.”

When teams have had success against the Stags’ defense, it has come on big plays. Campbell was quick to point out, however, that those have been few and far between. “You don’t see anybody doing those things against them on a consistent basis,” he said. “For us, it comes down to our level of execution and being consistent on offense.”

For the Demons, their offensive success starts with running the football. L-E has a stable of backs that can do that. Freshman Tyler Dixon has exploded onto the scene since being given his chance midway in the season. He now leads the team in rushing with 753 yards to go along with seven touchdowns. Junior tailback Randall Brown, whose injury opened the door for Dixon’s arrival, is next with 593 yards and five trips into the end zone.

Throw in Chandler Price (286 yards and four TDs), freshman quarterback Will Morris (117 yards and seven TDs) and sophomore Jasper Tucker (169 yards and one TD) and the visitors have enough leg power to cause problems for the Stags’. Add speedy wide out Gatlin Lawson (12 catches for 494 yards and three TDs) and the Demons have enough weapons to give a defense worries both on the ground and in the passing lanes.

That group, which operates behind a line which will play minus injured starting left tackle Wyatt Campbell, will be tested, however, by a Berkeley defense which features a blend of speed, size and athleticism.

“They have two big defensive tackles and two long defensive ends,” Campbell said of the BHS defense which is expected to line up in a 4-3 scheme while also dropping a safety inside the box to help with run support, on occasion. “They’re really downhill players at the linebacker position and their guys up front are real good.

“I think they kind of look at it like, ‘We’re real good up front and we’re going to control the line of scrimmage.’ We have to look at taking that as a challenge.”

The Stags’ offense is directed by junior quarterback Eric Tuttle who will have classmate Keshawn Wicks lining up along beside him at tailback. When Tuttle goes up top, his favorite receiver has been another junior in D.J. Chisholm. That trio operates behind a large and aggressive offensive line anchored by 6-foot-5, 310-pound junior tackle Kamren McCray.

“They run the ball pretty well,” Campbell said. “(Wicks) is a good back and then, when you slow down the run, they have the ability to spread you out. Their quarterback does a good job of getting the ball to different people but (Chisholm) can fly. You see him getting behind a lot of people.”

Being on the road, Campbell said, is something which the Demons have prepared for since the scrimmage season when each of their two pre-season encounters was on the road. “We did this to get our guys used to traveling, getting on the bus and then, getting your mind prepared to play in a different and hostile, environment, if you will,” he said. “They know that when they get on the bus that it’s a business trip.”

Before taking such a serious trip, however, there is another side to the playoffs. That is being a reward for a job well done during the regular season. This is the payoff for countless hours on the practice field, in the weight room and studying film.

What Campbell and his staff have tried to do in practice was try to take the pressure off their players and make practice for Berkeley just like any other week.

“Playoffs are fun for everybody. It’s a great thing,” said Campbell who won a state championship as a senior at North Augusta High School in 1989. “This is not something that has been experienced around here by any of our kids. We have a few who were here last year (when L-E lost in the first round of the 4A playoffs.)

“You have to enjoy the atmosphere and you have to try and make it fun because, at the end of the day, football is still a game.”

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