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Playoff door still open for Demons

Posted: October 11, 2018 8:35 a.m.
Updated: October 12, 2018 1:00 a.m.
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CODY RUSSELL ... L-E lineman

There is nothing which can be done about the first eight games of the season. There is only one option left and that is to look ahead.

That is the message which Lugoff-Elgin head coach Matt Campbell has tried to pound into the heads of his players as the winless Demons still have a chance to make the state playoffs if they can find a way to win their final two games of the regular season. The first of those pairings comes tonight at Irmo on the carpet at W.C. Hawkins Stadium.

With four of five teams from Region 4-5A making the state playoffs, the door is still open for L-E, which is coming off a 34-6 loss to Spring Valley last week in a game that the Demons trailed, 7-6,  in the waning minutes of the first half. In the second 24 minutes, the numbers game came back to bite the hosts who dress out just 32 varsity players.

“Last week,” Campbell said of the loss to the Vikings, “I thought we played a really good first half. We were in the game and had an opportunity but we just kind of dwindled down at the end. You just continue to build off that. You take the positives and build off those and, you take the errors and, hopefully, grow and learn from them.”

A pair of Alex Bowers field goals supplied all the L-E scoring in the first half while SV kept the hosts outs of the end zone the entire night. The eighth game of the season also saw the Demons make a change behind center with freshman Jamari Harris being called up from the junior varsity to start and play quarterback while the player he replaced, sophomore Josh Gary, saw action at wide receiver.

Tonight, Harris makes his second varsity start. Campbell hopes to see a more relaxed quarterback but, at the same time, understands what must be going through the mind of a freshman who has been thrown into the fire in the state’s largest classification.

“He has to be more comfortable,” Campbell said. “You have a 14-year-old who is starting a region game in class 5A. It’s going to be a big step for him but, I definitely think that he will be more settled this week.”

Harris learned that he would be the starter early last week when the position change for Gary’s replacement  was made. The switch to the youngster led Campbell and company to scaling down the playbook, a tad, in order to play to Harris’ strengths.

“We do what we do,” said the fourth-year Demon head coach. “There were a couple things that we probably couldn’t run with Jamari just because of (lack of) repetitions. What you do is you put him in there and take some of the decision-making process out of it for him until he gets settled in. Then, we’ll expand as we go.”

After defeating Spring Valley, 31-28, in a mild upset in its 4-5A opener, Irmo dropped a 21-14 decision at the hands of Blythewood last Friday night. The Yellow Jacket offense features tailback Kendrell Flowers, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound senior who is committed to Wake Forest. Flowers was held to 18 yards on nine carries in the win over Spring Valley and is returning from an early season injury. He went over the 100-yard rushing mark against Blythewood.

Campbell said his defense needs to be aware of where Flowers is lined up on every offensive snap while also trying to slow down Irmo quarterback John Ragin

“He is a special tailback,” Campbell said of Flowers. “Prior to him coming back, you look at their films and you see a special quarterback, who is a great athlete, and they went as their quarterback went in those games. Now, with (Flowers) coming back in, he’s a big part of their offense.”

The Yellow Jackets have quality skill players while also boasting a large and athletic offensive front.

On defense, Irmo will line up three large linemen who will occupy blockers while allowing the four linebackers to fill gaps and make plays. In the secondary, the Demons will, again, see a quartet which features length and can make plays with their athleticism.

While the Demons have had a seemingly steady diet of large linemen and quality skill players most every week, Campbell said the opportunity is still there for his team to close with a flourish and be playing when November rolls around. While 0-8 is hardly what Campbell, his staff and players envisioned going into the final two road games of the season, the other side of the story is that the possibility exists to make this a memorable October.

“Everybody’s frustrated but here’s the thing,” Campbell said, “the way the playoffs are set up, you win two games and you’re in the playoffs. We have two games left so we’re going to keep fighting. We have good senior leadership on our team that keeps pushing and pulling us along.”

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