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Questions abound for Demons in Thursday game against Knights

Posted: October 19, 2010 4:07 p.m.
Updated: October 20, 2010 5:00 a.m.

Playing on a short week, against a West Florence squad which may or may not be at full-strength and in front of what usually has been a placid atmosphere for football, Lugoff-Elgin head coach Scott Jones is hoping all those factors turn into the perfect storm for his team on Thursday night at Florence Memorial Stadium.

Having played before large and excitable crowds, both at home and on the road this season, Jones said that playing in front of what is anticipated to be a small gathering of fans on Thursday might be just the type of change which the Demons (2-5) need at this point in their season.

“To tell you the truth, we’ve played in some pretty active atmospheres this year so, this will be a change for us,” Jones said of playing in the usually staid confines of Memorial Stadium on a Thursday. “Maybe, this will be a good thing because we’ve had some good home crowds this year and on the road, too, and we haven’t fared too well. Maybe our guys will think some of those empty seats are cheering for them.

“Who knows? This may be a good thing for us.”

Anytime you take a group of teenaged players out of their comfort zone, coaches never know what to expect. The usual Friday routine is altered. That, however, is just one uncertainty for the Demons. The other is which Knights team will come out for this contest.

Prior to last week’s 14-10 win over Sumter, four WF players were arrested on drug charges and suspended for that game. Included in that group was the Knights’ leading ground gainer, senior Eddie McKenzie, who ran for 826 yards and four touchdowns in seven games.

There is a chance, Jones said, all four players could be re-instated in time for Thursday’s contest. As far as his team’s practices are concerned, Jones said the Demons will prepare as if McKenzie and company will be in uniform and on the field.

Last Friday, in a 41-23 loss to Conway, the Demon defense allowed the host Tigers just 88 yards in more than 30 carries. In the air, however, CHS threw for 290 yards and three touchdowns. With our without McKenzie in tow, Jones anticipates WF quarterback Josh Davidson to test the airwaves against the L-E secondary.

“We treat it the same way because, if we don’t get better in the secondary, they are just going to throw the ball on us every day and test us,” Jones said of his defense preparing as if the Knights will be at full-strength Thursday. “We have to try and do a better job back there (in the defensive backfield.) If we don’t do that, they are going to try and light the scoreboard up by throwing the ball.”

Once again, the Demons will see a large offensive line in the hosts who have a pair of 300-pounders on the interior front. That, Jones said, has been the norm for his defensive line which has taken on and more than held their own against larger lines.

“I’m not worried about the size of their line because we’ve seen some of the biggest lines you’ll want to see already this season,” Jones said when asked about the WF offensive line. “I thought our defensive front played as well as they could play the other night when we held Conway to 88 yards rushing. Our (front line) continues to get better. We just need to have some support behind them. If they’re going to take on all those big boys up front, our linebackers and our secondary people have to help them out.

“Our guys (in the secondary) try hard and fight hard, but, at certain times, we’re just a little mismatched. I’m sure that West Florence will try and find the mismatches and try to pick on us. We just need to try and be a little bit smarter with our technique and with some of the things that we’re doing.”

One area which has been a bugaboo for the L-E defense has been their inability to tackle in space. All too, often, Jones said, his players have a ball carrier in their sights, only to let them get away. They need to be surer in that area on Thursday.

“We have to make some tackles in the open field. That’s hurt us,” Jones said. “It’s one thing for somebody to complete a pass, but we’ve missed some tackles in the open space that have been disastrous for us. We just can’t afford to have that happen.”

Defensively, the hosts line up in an eight-man front with a variety of looks. The Knights have had their defensive moments this season, having held four opponents to 17 points or less.

While impressed with the WF defense, Jones said he is more concerned about his offense hanging onto the football. The Demons average better than three turnovers per game, which has stalled the offense on far-too-many occasions. “We’re going to have to eliminate mistakes, hold onto the ball and not give them any cheap ones. If we can do that, we should be fine,” Jones said.

While playing on a Thursday, along with all the aforementioned trappings which surround this game which is crucial to both team’s post-season hopes --- since both sides have 1-1 Region 6-4A records, Jones said this week of practice has been centered around getting his own team better more than it has been worrying about what West Florence might or might not do.

Jones said it is time for his players to become accountable.

“We’re focused on us. It’s ‘Operation man-up,’” he said. “We’re going to have to try and do the best we can and try to put last week behind us.

“We’ve been a comedy of errors and it’s getting old, week after week. We need to try and play a complete ballgame without having turnovers and mistakes. Our guys are trying hard, but we’re just making silly mistakes. We have to try and eliminate that.”

With three regular season games left to be played, the Demons will all but be assured of a post-season berth with two wins. Jones, however, is looking at his team’s closing stretch of games from a different angle.

“Our focus has always been on trying to make the playoffs, but I’m not even worried about that anymore,” he said. “What we’re worried about is trying to get better and to get our young guys focused, too. And, for our seniors, we want to try and end this campaign on a positive note. We have three games left in the regular season and, if you win two of the three, you’re in the playoffs. That’s our focus.”

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