The Lewisburg Middle School Tigers (9-0) closed out a perfect season on the gridiron in style by crushing the Spring Hill Generals 62-26 in the Big South Conference championship game on Saturday afternoon at Preston Hopkins Field.
Having defeated the Generals 52-26 in their regular season encounter, the Tigers put Saturday's game out of reach early and built a 38-14 lead in the first half.
Lewisburg then tacked on four more touchdowns in the second half to forge a 62-20 advantage late in the fourth quarter before coasting to the 36-point victory.
"It feels incredible to realize all your hard work and get through a tough schedule undefeated. The weight room was the difference for us this season," said LMS coach Jeff Morton. "This is without a doubt the best team I've had here. We have 25 really outstanding players on this team. We were loaded this year."
Although Spring Hill forced two first half turnovers by the Tigers, the Generals were unable to contain the Tigers' fleet footed skill position players, as Lewisburg rolled up 353 yards of total offense while averaging 10.7 yards per play. LMS gashed Spring Hill's defense with several long runs and churned out 254 yards rushing on 21 carries.
Tiger Quarterback Jay Howard made an impact in nearly every facet of the game, as he completed 4-of-10 passes for 53 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 139 yards and three TDs on three carries, ran back a kickoff 72 yards for a score, and returned an interception 65 yards to the end zone.
Tailback Bennielle Hill also toted the ball 10 times for 89 yards and caught a pass from Caleb Fields for a 46-yard touchdown. D'Andre Brown rushed for 29 yards and a TD and had one reception for 21 yards as well, while Fields and Tre Crutcher hauled in touchdown passes of 17 and 12 yards respectively.
The Tiger defense, meanwhile, forced three General turnovers and limited Spring Hill to 184 yards of total offense, which included just 94 yards rushing on 23 carries.
Tailback Dontae Smith paced Spring Hill's offense with 66 yards rushing on 12 carries and returned a LMS fumble 68 yards for a touchdown. Justin Oden added 14 yards rushing on three carries as well to go along with a 77-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
General quarterback Blake Lovell struggled for most of the afternoon and completed just 5-of-18 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown while tossing two interceptions.
Trent Wiltfong was Spring Hill's leading receiver and caught two passes for 65 yards and a touchdown.
Brown paced Lewisburg's defense with nine tackles, while Crutcher recorded six tackles. Blair Conger, Ben Taylor, J.Q. Haislip-Hightower, and Daeveantae Brown also notched three tackles apiece with Haislip-Hightower registering an interception. Quinton Holmon tallied two tackles and recovered a fumble for LMS as well.
The Tigers got off to an auspicious start, as Holmon recovered a fumble by Smith on the Generals' opening possession to set up LMS at the Spring Hill 49.
Fields then hit Hill for a 46-yard touchdown strike after catching a lateral from Howard, before Haislip -Hightower hauled in Howard's two-point conversion pass to give Lewisburg an 8-0 lead early in the first quarter.
Following a short punt by Spring Hill, Howard found Crutcher in the end zone for a 12-yard TD pass, while Brown ran in the two-point conversion to make it 16-0 with 1:10 left in the first quarter.
After Haislip-Hightower had a 47-yard interception return for a touchdown negated by a sideline interference penalty, Brown mishandled a lateral from Howard before Smith scooped up the ball and raced 68 yards for a score to narrow the deficit to 16-6. Brayden Gentry and Conger stopped General fullback Hunter Whitwell short of the end zone on the two-point conversion run to keep the deficit at 10.
Howard quickly swung the momentum back in LMS' favor by racing 53 yards for a touchdown before Hill ran in the two-point conversion to stretch the Tigers lead to 24-6 early in the second quarter.
On Spring Hill's ensuing possession, Smith scored on a 30-yard touchdown jaunt prior to running in the two-point conversion to narrow the gap to 24-14.
Whitwell recovered a Tiger fumble at the General 32 to halt LMS' next drive, but Howard picked off a deep pass by Lovell a few moments later and sprinted 65 yards for a TD. Hill then ran in the two-point conversion to stake Lewisburg to a 32-14 advantage.
After stopping the Generals on downs at the Spring Hill 29, Howard hooked up with Fields for a 17-yard touchdown pass to push the Tigers' lead to 38-14 late in the first half.
LMS hit Spring Hill with another haymaker at the start of the second half, as Howard returned the opening kickoff 72 yards for a score to make it 44-14.
Lewisburg held the Generals scoreless on their next two possessions before Howard scampered 27 yards for a touchdown on the Tigers' third offensive series of the half to stretch LMS' lead to 50-14.
Oden returned the ensuing kickoff 77 yards for a score to trim the deficit to 50-20, but Howard broke loose for a 59-yard TD run to give Lewisburg a 56-20 advantage late in the third quarter.
Spring Hill once again lost the ball on downs at their own 37, before Brown scored on an 11-yard touchdown run to extend the Tigers' lead to 62-20.
Wiltfong then hauled in a 61-yard touchdown catch in the waning moments of the contest for the 62-26 final.