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Behind the 8-ball

Eight turnovers costly as Stags trip up L-E, 44-14

Posted: November 13, 2017 3:54 p.m.
Updated: November 14, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

L-E’S BRANDON STEVENSON (23) grabs onto the jersey of Berkeley tailback Keshawn Wicks in making this tackle in the first half of Friday’s second round 4A Lower State playoff contest.

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MONCKS CORNER -- Let Seattle and Texas A&M have their 12th men. Berkeley had an even greater force on its side; the Stags had the power of the turnover.

Taking advantage of eight Lugoff-Elgin miscues, which the hosts turned into 30 points, the Stags used a 30-7 second half surge to stay alive in the 4A Lower State playoffs following Friday’s second round 44-14 victory over the visiting Demons at Bonner Stadium.

The loss capped a 7-5 campaign for the visitors while BHS (11-1) won its 11th straight. Randy Robinson’s charges will be at home this Friday to take on North Myrtle Beach in a Lower State semifinal pairing.

As if being without four offensive starters was not enough for L-E to overcome, the guests did not do themselves any favors on a night in which they coughed the ball up in a variety of ways. The Stags picked off four passes, recovered three fumbles and had a safety on an errant long snap to help inflict their damage.

The mistakes, said third-year L-E head coach Matt Campbell, put his team’s defense in too many tough positions and took much of the air from the Demons’ solid start. The visitors would record a blocked punt, which led to a touchdown, to go along with an interception and a fumble recovery in the game’s opening 13 minutes.

“Turnovers,” Campbell said even before being asked a question about the game. “It’s hard to win without turnovers but we had eight turnovers … you can’t win doing that.

“I thought our kids played hard and I thought they played physical. It’s hard to overcome ourselves, though, which makes it tough. And, when you play a good team in the second round of the playoffs, it’s good competition … (Berkeley) is a good team, they were 10-1 for a reason.”

Before the Demons stepped on the bus for their trip to the Lowcountry, they were already without the services of their leading rusher in freshman tailback Tyler Dixon (illness), senior fullback Jay Lynch (concussion protocol), senior wide out Bradwin Salmond (illness) along with senior starting tackle Wyatt Campbell (knee) which made their task against the Region 8 champions even tougher.

“Those are big parts of our offense,” Matt Campbell said of the loss of four offensive starters. “We lost some important pieces of our puzzle coming down here but our kids filled in and stepped up for them. But those guys do bring a little something extra for us.”

Trailing, 14-7, at halftime, the Demons saw the entire tone of this contest change in a span of a little more than two minutes early in the third quarter. “I thought our guys came out and played hard and had the early momentum tonight,” Campbell said. “Even when they went up, 14-7, I thought that we had momentum.”

That began to change starting with the third snap of the second half as BHS’ Tre Morrison stepped in front of an L-E pass which he returned 14 yards to the Demons’ 21. On the Stags’ first play from that spot, quarterback Eric Tuttle called his own number and went around left tackle and into the end zone to make it 21-7 at that 10:20 marker of the third.

Things got worse 16 seconds later after a high shotgun snap led to L-E quarterback Chandler Price tracking down the bouncing ball and beating a host of Stags into the end zone to recover the ball for a safety and a 23-7 BHS advantage.

The hosts took the free kick and marched 49 yards in five plays with junior tailback Keshawn Wicks doing the honors from four yards out with a scoring run over left tackle. The 16 straight points and 30 unanswered left the Demons staring up at a 30-7 deficit.

“Things went a little haywire there for what seemed like a quick minute,” Campbell said of the opening moments of the second half.”But we went back and got another score.”

Trailing by three-plus scores, the Demons used a 40-yard Price to Caleb McDonald completion on the ensuing series for a first down at the BHS 26. Five plays later, on third and nine from the 11, D’montrey Singleton picked off a pass in the end zone to stunt the drive.

The Stags gave the ball right back to the Demons on the next play as Ahmad Bryant pounced on a Wicks fumble at the Berkeley 21.

A five-yard Price keeper and a five-yard offsides infraction set the ball at the five. On first and goal from there, junior tailback Randall Brown followed the blocking of sophomore center Cameron Kean and went through the heart of the Stags’ defensive line for the touchdown. Alex Bowers tacked on the PAT kick and with 3:52 showing on the third quarter clock, the Demons had narrowed the gap to 30-14.

The Stags regained the momentum with an eight-play, 72-yard drive which included successive runs of 17, 11 and 11 yards from backup tailback Tyriek Cooper to set up a first down at the L-E 14. On third and 11 from the 15, Tuttle found a diving Dervon Pesnell for the touchdown with 19.4 ticks left in the third. The scoring hookup was the third of the night for Tuttle and his 6-foot-6 inch classmate who created matchup problems for the L-E secondary.“He’s a big, tall rangy guy,” Campbell said of Pesnell, “but we can’t go out there and give our guys too much help outside because (Wicks) can hurt you with the run.”Pesnell teamed with D.J. Chisholm to give Berkeley a potent 1-2 combination at wide out. The Demon secondary held the 5-foot-5 Chisholm in check in allowing him three catches for 19 yards. But the speedster made his presence known on the following series as he fielded a Josh Boone punt at his own 38 and proceeded to cut left, only to find nothing there as he changed direction to the middle of the field. With traffic there, he bounced right and sped down the BHS sideline and into the end zone for a 62-yard touchdown which had all the trappings of a video game to put this one out of reach at 44-14 with 11:29 left in the contest.Berkeley’s second half explosion was in stark contrast to the opening of this game. On a chilly evening, it was the Demons who came out hot.A blocked punt by Boone on the game’s opening possession set the Demons up at the BHS 35 for their first offensive foray.A seven-yard Brown carry opened things for a quick two-play series which ended a play later with freshman quarterback Will Morris finding wide receiver Ty House on a post pattern with the 6-foot-2 senior beating 1-on-1 coverage to make the grab which gave the visitors an early 7-0 lead with 8:52 still to play in the opening stanza.Boone struck again on the next snap as he picked off a Tuttle pass at the L-E 41 but the Demons were unable to capitalize on the first of three Stags’ turnovers on the evening.The second one of those came with L-E leading, 7-0, in the second quarter as Tuttle was sacked by junior linebacker Tyrik Richardson, who dislodged the ball in the process. L-E tackle Shamari Pollard recovered the fumble and the guests were back in business at their own 36.A lost L-E fumble three plays later was recovered by Berkeley lineman Blake Jenkins-Williams at the Demons’ 26. Five plays after that, on third and 10 from the 11, Tuttle was chased from the pocket only to find a sliding Pesnell in the middle of the end zone with the equalizer which came at the 8:38 mark of the second quarter and after L-E failed to cash in on the opportunities presented by its defense.“We had opportunities and we stopped ourselves a lot and, a lot of our turnovers gave them a short field; that’s a lot to have to overcome,” Campbell said of his team’s missed chances. The Demon defense more than held its own throughout the game. That unit forced a Stags punt in the final minute of the first half of a game knotted at seven. Taete McMurry’s bouncing kick, however, glanced off the leg of an L-E player and was recovered by Berkeley’s Brennan Garrett at the L-E 34 with 47.5 seconds before intermission.After a twisting, turning and leaping Wicks went for 26 yards on first down, Tuttle found Pesnell for the second time in the quarter; this time on an eight-yard fade pattern toss with 33.2 seconds left before the break.Campbell said the game plan was to try and slow down Pesnell and Chisholm when Berkeley went up top and corral Wicks, who rushed for 146 yards on 23 carries, on the ground.“We had to contain (Chisholm and Pesnell) in the passing game but we didn’t do it by being a little more physical on the line of scrimmage. We needed guys in the box for (Wicks) in the running game,” Campbell said.“Offensively, we felt like we wanted to come in and be physical. We’ve seen a lot of guys come in and try to beat them sideline-to-sideline but we understand that that is not how we’re built. They have a lot of defensive speed and we wanted to run right at them … and, we had a lot of opportunities to do that tonight.”The L-E defense logged 61 plays and were on the field for 14 Berkeley offensive series which ate up nearly 28 of the game’s 48 minutes. Campbell said there was little more that he could have asked from his defensive unit.“I thought we got great effort from our defense but they spent way too much time on the field tonight. I was proud of them and of the way they played,” he said.As he gathered his team for the final time of the season, Campbell stressed the positives for a group led by 26 seniors who were part of a winless team as freshman, a one-win unit as sophomores, a five-win squad in 2016 before reeling off seven victories as seniors. That, Campbell said, showed the progress of a program which, he said, will continue to grow. “This was a learning experience for us. We have to grow as a team with each and every opportunity that we get,” Campbell said. “Last year, we were fortunate to get to the first round of the playoffs. This year, we were fortunate to get to the second round. We have to continue to build on this learning experience. But I’m proud of these kids. I love every one of them like they’re my sons and I know each and every member of our coaching staff feels the exact same way; we’re just going to continue to work.”
Demon Doings: Brown led the Demons’ ground game with 52 yards on 14 carries along with a touchdown. He also caught two passes for eight yards. Morris was next with 11 on seven hauls … L-E rushed the ball 31 times for 109 yards but that figured was skewed by two plays which went for minus (-23) yards … Morris completed three of his 14 passes for 36 yards and a touchdown while Price was 1-for-3 for 40 yards … McDonald had one reception for 40 yards with House’s one grab going for a 28-yard touchdown … Wick led all rushers with 146 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries as the hosts ran the ball 45 times for 261 yards … Tuttle completed 10 of his 16 passes for 107 yards with Pesnell on the receiving end of four of those for 44 yards and three touchdowns. Chisholm had four grabs for 36 yards while Solomon Butler had a pair of catches for 27 yards … Unofficially, Bryant led the Demons with six tackles and a fumble recovery. Brandon Stevenson was next with five stops while forcing a fumble. Reddek Kelly and Justin Wall each had four tackles ... … Both L-E and Berkeley will move into the 5A ranks next season with the Demons joining Region 8-5A along with future foes Blythewood, Irmo, Spring Valley and Sumter. Berkeley, which was to have stayed in 4A after the initial round of realignment, appealed to move up into the state’s 5A ranks in order to be closer to its more natural rivals. Beginning next fall, the Stags will be in a revamped Region 6-5A along with Goose Creek, Stratford, Cane Bay, Wando and James Island.

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