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Young Demons prepare for first test at Westwood

Posted: August 15, 2018 9:55 a.m.
Updated: August 17, 2018 1:00 a.m.
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XAVIEN ROBINSON ... L-E defensive tackle

Some sports and teams break out the bunting and pull out all the stops when it comes to season openers. To some, a win or loss in game one serves as a harbinger for the season.

Matt Campbell can do without the muss and fuss which comes with opening night. To the fourth-year Lugoff-Elgin head coach, tonight’s contest at Westwood is the first of 10 games his team is guaranteed of playing in 2018.

No matter what happens to the Demons tonight, there will still be a game two next Friday. And with that, it means there will be another chance to get better in days leading up to the pairing with Camden.

“We take it one week at a time. We can’t get ahead of ourselves,” said Campbell, who is 1-2 as the L-E boss in opening games. “We understand that it’s early in the season and that your season is not dictated by this first game. 

“Obviously, it’s a good building block if you come out and get something positive out of it but, week-to-week, it’s a different game plan, different opponent and different strategies. We’re just trying to focus on this game.”

The Demons are in a quasi-rebuilding mode after having lost six starters on each side of the football from last year’s 7-5 squad which advanced to the second round of the 4A state playoffs. Among the new faces is sophomore starting quarterback Josh Gary, who will have the luxury of having veteran starters Randall Brown and Tyler Dixon lining up behind him at tailback.

“I think our backs are pretty good backs,” Campbell said of Brown and Dixon who combined for more than 1,300 yards on the ground a season ago. “Our line has to be more accountable and be more solid on our blocking schemes. It’s not about taking a guy and running him 12 yards down the field and mashing him. In a perfect world, yeah, I’d love that, but it is not a realistic thing.

“We have really good backs and if we put bodies on bodies and occupy defenders, I think our backs will make a lot of plays for us.”

L-E’s younger players got a sampling of what things will be like tonight in last Friday’s 7-6 win over Andrew Jackson in the Camden Shrine Club Jamboree. Campbell hopes his troops will move ahead from that 50-minute game.

“You put them under the lights for the first time, in front of a larger crowd and on a grander stage. It’s not like a scrimmage where somebody makes a play and you bring the ball back to where you started,” Campbell said. “Putting them in those situations helped. It knocked some of the cobwebs out and some of the jitters out.

“Even as up-tempo as (a jamboree) is, it’s probably a step up from a scrimmage, there is still going to be that next step when you get in a real game and you have to do it for four quarters. There were some positives that we took out from last week and, obviously, there were some negatives. Now, we have to be detail-oriented because those are the things that are going to win or, lose games for you.”

Westwood was also in Camden a week ago and the 4A Redhawks blanked a 2A Buford squad which had several chances to score, mainly through the passing game.

Dustin Curtis and company have athletes on both sides of the football. Junior quarterback Ahmon Green directs the offense and has a pair of weapons in wide outs Cortes Branham and Christian Horn. The tandem of DeShawn Boyd and Jalen Briggman will share the ball-carrying chores for a unit which looks to establish the run and work the passing game off the ground attack.

“You look at their receivers and they’re tall, long and athletic,” “They have a big running back and a big offensive line; they like to pound the ball at you.”

Since his team has four first-year starters in the secondary, Campbell expects the Redhawks to test the Demons with the passing game. “There’s no doubt that they’re going to do that,” he said. “When you have the skill that they do on the outside, they’re going to test our defensive backs. I do believe that they want to run the ball first so, we are going to have to be solid against the run first.”

On defense, Westwood is expected to line up in a three-man front and will come after the quarterback and dare teams to throw against their corners which includes, four-star prospect Cam Smith on one side and T.J. Blanding on the other.

“They have big, strong guys up front pushing the pocket and then, they have four athletic linebackers who like to bring pressure,” Campbell said. 

“It’s going to be a challenge for us. They have a good squad and some great players.”

 

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