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L-E exorcises playoff demons in 38-21 win

Ground game leads Demons past Dreher, onto Berkeley

Posted: November 6, 2017 2:46 p.m.
Updated: November 7, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Photo courtesy of goflashwin.com/

L-E SENIOR OFFENSIVE LINEMAN Seth Branham (68) provides an escort for Jasper Tucker in a game played earlier this season. The Demons will travel to meet Berkeley in Friday’s second round 4A Lower State playoff game in Moncks Corner.

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The wait is finally over. 

A benchmark goal was achieved Friday night as Lugoff-Elgin won its first playoff game since 2008. The Demons did it with a 38-21 victory over the visiting Dreher Blue Devils at Lugoff- Elgin Demon Stadium. 

From winning just five games in as many seasons from 2011-2015, the Demons have waited long enough for a win in the postseason. This was their first in the playoffs since 2008.

In his third year as head coach of the Demons, Matt Campbell has increased the win total each year; winning one game in his first season to six last year and now seven, so far, in 2017. He knows just how much this means to the high school. 

“It’s exciting. It means we are going in the right direction.” Campbell said following Friday’s win. “This program, these kids, fans and all these coaches, they all believe and work hard. And we are all working towards one goal. I thought we were very solid on offense, defense and special teams, all around, tonight.”

L-E (7-4) will be on the road for Friday’s 4A Lower State second round pairing when the Demons travel to meet Region 8 champion Berkeley (10-1), a 21-7 winner over Marlboro County last Friday, in the Lowcountry.

As for the Demons, going into a game with teams that almost mirrored each other in terms of philosophy and personnel, L-E was prepared to face a strong Blue Devil ground attack led by North-South All-Star selection Jay Washington and his younger brother, Da Da. L-E was able to contain Jay, for the most part, holding him to some 60 yards in the first half. The senior finished with 124 yards, with a bulk of that coming against several L-E junior varsity players who were inserted into the game in the second half. 

The Demon defense stepped up to the task of limiting the big plays of Washington, Campbell said. 

“We went to a four-man front and really challenged our defensive front to slow him down and penetrate,” Campbell said. “He’s a guy that goes inside the tackles a lot.  If he gets past the line of scrimmage, he’s dangerous. And listen, you play a guy like that he’s going to make plays … it’s inevitable. He’s a great back but what you try to do is just limit those opportunities.” 

L-E led, 23-14, at halftime and what might have been one of the key moments in the game was getting a 37-yard field goal from freshman Alex Bowers as time expired in the second quarter. The crowd, sideline and coaches erupted after the kick which gave the hosts all the energy and fire they needed to never look back.

“Awesome to have that kind of momentum,” Campbell said of Bowers’ kick. “In the past two years, that’s not a decision I would have gone with. In practice, Alex was kicking 35 yarders into the wind and he can make them. 

“I have confidence in Alex Bowers. He’s a freshman and he’s only going to get better. What he lacks is experience but we will get him in the weight room, get him stronger and have him start kicking it farther. And hey, like his momma says on Twitter, hashtag ‘my kicker.’”

The Demons never trailed in this one as it took about 14 minutes to get a 13-0 lead on the Blue Devils. A 38-yard run by Tyler Dixon got the scoring started as he broke free from the front seven and scored. The freshman made all types of cuts in-between the tackles on this night, showing flashes of just how special he could be in the future. 

“He’s unbelievable,” Campbell said of Dixon. “The vision he has, the ability to cut and make people miss. One thing we have to impress on him is that he’s not as big as Randall (L-E junior tailback Brown) and hasn’t really been in the weight program just yet, so we need to teach him to get on the ground. 

“I love the way he competes, scratches and claws away but we have to coach him to be a little bit smarter with his body there.”

The Demons struck again as Jay Lynch caught a 16-yard swing pass from the fullback position and took it in for a score. Lynch collided with a defensive back and lowered his shoulder to pound it in for the touchdown. 

Even with an early first half lead, L-E was making adjustments on the fly with what the Dreher defense gave it. 

“We were going out there and sometimes it’s just week-in and week-out … we don’t know what we will get on defense,” he said of the Blue Devils’ strategy against the L-E offensive attack. “And what I mean by that is, Dreher is a team that normally runs a three-man front and they came out in a four-man front so, at that point, we are running through some different formations. It was just trying to see how they would react and line up and settle into our game plan.” 

The adjustments certainly worked for the time being but Dreher would get on the board on the ensuing drive with two big plays. First, the Blue Devils converted a third and 13 with an 18-yard pass over the middle to midfield. Then, on fourth down in Demon territory, Trenton Clarke found a wide-open Ryan Campbell over the middle for a 32-yard touchdown pass play to cut the L-E lead to 13-7 at the 5:56 mark of the second quarter. 

“We just had a couple guys get out of position. We had a few that didn’t fill in for what they were supposed to do,” Campbell said of the pass plays. “They came in on the sideline and we regrouped and got them composed. They went back out there and played better. We made some adjustments on both sides, really. The game plan was there, we just had to challenge them to step up a little more.”

 The teams would then exchange scores as Lynch got into the end zone from 23 yards away with a scoring run. Dreher fired back to bring it back to a one score-game making it 20-14, with a touchdown which came before the longest field goal of Bowers’ young career. 

In the second half, it was all Lugoff-Elgin. 

On the first drive of the third quarter, Dreher coughed up the football giving it to L-E. One play later, Chandler Price ran it off the right side for a 41-yard touchdown giving the Demons a three-score advantage. A two-point conversion pass from Bowers to Cameron Payne made the deficit 17 points. 

The Demons then did what they do best and that is to pound the football as Dixon and Brown combined for over 160 total yards rushing on the night. Brown, who has been particularly solid the last few weeks, was rewarded for his good play with a short touchdown run putting the exclamation point on the win as he punched it in from two yards away. The scoring play was a repeat of hammering the ball over center. 

The scoring drive was set up by a deep punt return by Gatlin Lawson inside the Dreher 30.

“It was something they were giving us,” Campbell said of his team’s ability to move the ball with their running backs. “They weren’t giving us that quarterback sneak today. We just had to hit it wider and we knew the formation would work with a number of plays. 

“That’s truly a four-yard and a cloud of dust type of play but we just kept hammering that side and stayed with it. We knew (Brown) would score.”

In the fourth quarter, some younger guys --- including members of L-E’s undefeated jayvee squad --- made appearances in spelling the team’s starters. It was situation that L-E is not used to but an opportunity that the coaches took advantage of on Friday. 

“We were excited during that late portion of the game,” Campbell said of giving his younger players playing time. “I think it shows you the progress of the program; to go last year and lose in the first round like we did, that was an experience we took a lot from. This year, we were in control and able to play some guys and rest some guys. It’s an unusual circumstance for us but we loved it and we put some young kids in there and they did a good job.”

With this first round pairing in the books, Demons can look ahead now to the second round of the 4A playoffs and a trip to Moncks Corner where the Stags await them. 

With a huge win for the program in which social media exploded afterwards, the Demon football team is entering territory that they have not been in since the 2008 season when the program was still in the AAA ranks. 

“I don’t know if they know how big this was,” Campbell said of what he told his team following the victory, “but I know they know we are in do or die situations every week. That’s how we coach them; you have to continue to win. 

“I told them I was proud of them and that this was their opportunity to create history … not just to rewrite it but to create their own. They really set the bar tonight for what could possibly coming on down the road in the future.” 

 

Wyatt Campbell shut down for the season: It was known mid-morning Friday and made official later in the day that L-E senior offensive left tackle Wyatt Campbell would be shut down for the season. 

The USC commit is schedule to undergo surgery to repair a torn meniscus today. After an MRI revealed more damage to his left knee than originally thought, the Gamecock staff advised he get the surgery sooner rather than later and end his senior year. 

After the procedure at Providence Hospital, Campbell will start the rehab process as he anticipates enrolling early with USC on Jan. 10, 2018. 

All of this led to L-E applying some makeshift changes to the offensive line on Friday and that unit played rather well with players switching in and out at different positions. 

“We had plans of maybe playing Blake Smith, anyway, on the offensive line and he played some the second half two weeks ago against Darlington so we had a little experience,” Matt Campbell said of the changes. “But when we got the bombshell about Wyatt today that he wouldn’t be able to play, we told Smitty (Smith) and he was excited. He made the most of the opportunity. He did go down with a minor injury then we put Blake Crane out there and he played well, too. We had a jayvee tight end, Parker Clements, getting reps. It really was an offensive line by committee today but I was proud of the way they stepped up. They accepted the challenge.”

Demon Doings: Unofficially, the Demons racked up 314 yards of total offense … Dixon had 80 yards with a score on just nine carries … Brown was the workhorse rushing for 82 yards on 18 touches … Freshman quarterback Will Morris had just 65 yards passing with a touchdown … The Demons had six penalties compared to seven for Dreher … The Blue Devils had just 231 total yards with Jay Washington having most of those yards running for 124 yards with two scores on 22 touches … Defensively, Payne had two sacks along with six total tackles. Marcus Jackson forced a fumble along with three tackles while Tyrik Richardson had five solo stops … The seven wins by L-E this year is the most for the program in one season since 2009 … Bowers’ 37-yard field goal was the longest field goal by a Demon kicker since Grayson Quick booted home a 44-yarder against Brookland-Cayce in 2008. 

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