Spring Hill too much for LMS

Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Lewisburg's Caleb Fields stiff arms Spring Hill's Dante Smith while scoring on a 55-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Tribune photos by Louis G. Scheuchenzuber

The Lewisburg Middle School Tigers (3-3) hopes of repeating as Big South Conference champions were officially dashed on Thursday night when they lost 34-20 on the road to an undefeated Spring Hill General squad.

Having blown out Spring Hill twice last year, the Tigers trailed 14-0 at the end of the first quarter before tallying a touchdown and a two-point conversion late in the second period to narrow the gap to 14-8 at the break.

The Generals (6-0) then took control of the contest by scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions of the second half to open up a 34-14 advantage at the end of the third quarter before claiming the 14-point victory.

Lewisburg running back Kamron Liggett-Hightower races down the left sideline for a 21-yard gain after catching a pass from quarterback Caleb Fields in the fourth quarter against Spring Hill.

With Thursday's win, Spring Hill earned the right to host the Big South Conference championship game, which will be held on Oct. 5.

Offense slowed

LMS had averaged over 36 points per game in their five previous contests, but mustered just 191 yards of total offense against the Generals and committed four turnovers.

Lewisburg was unable to run the ball effectively between the tackles against Spring Hill's stout defensive front and rushed for only 96 yards on 20 carries. Quarterback Caleb Fields was the lone Tiger ball carrier to gain positive yardage and rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries.

Fields also completed just 3-of-9 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown to go along with two interceptions. Running back Kamron Liggett-Hightower hauled in all three of Fields' completions.

"We don't have a deep pass threat to keep them out of the box. We tried to spread them out, but we couldn't get anything going early on," said LMS coach Elliot Cook. "We always fight hard, but we just dig too many holes that we can't get out of."

Strong opponent

The Generals, conversely, rolled up 374 yards of total offense and did not commit a turnover. Spring Hill did most of their damage on the ground and amassed 265 yards rushing on 42 carries. Tailback Dante Smith was a workhorse for the Generals and toted the ball 29 times for 253 yards and two touchdowns.

"We had (Smith) bottled up several times, but we let him dance around and break loose," said Cook.

Spring Hill quarterback T.J. Ennis kept the Tiger defense honest by completing 9-of-16 passes for 109 yards and three TDs. Justin Oden caught four passes for 73 yards and two touchdowns to pace the Generals receiving corps. Darrin Johnson also had four receptions for 25 yards to go along with two interceptions on defense, while Austin Onate added an 11-yard TD catch.

Linebacker Hunter Cummings recorded 13 tackles to pace Lewisburg's defense. Dave Roberts notched nine tackles as well, while Caleb Estes, Noah Adams, and Billy Cheek tallied eight tackles apiece.

Generals turn loose

Although Spring Hill recovered an onside kick to start the game, the Generals were unable to capitalize on the break and were stopped on downs by Lewisburg at the LMS 43.

The Tigers then lost the ball on downs at their own 36, before Smith scored on a 29-yard touchdown jaunt two plays later. On the two-point conversion attempt, Ennis found Johnson in the end zone to give Spring Hill an 8-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

LMS lost the ball on downs again at midfield before Johnson hit Oden for a 39-yard touchdown strike to stretch the Generals lead to 14-0 with :52 left in the first quarter.

After both teams came up empty on their next two possessions, Lewisburg put together a three-play, 42-yard touchdown drive to narrow the gap to 14-8 with :28 left in the half. Following a six-yard run by Fields, Spring Hill was penalized five yards for defensive encroachment to move the ball to the General 31. Fields then scored on an 18-yard touchdown jaunt two plays later before Liggett-Hightower ran in the two-point conversion.

Long run

Smith swung the momentum back in Spring Hill's favor at the start of the second half when he weaved his way through the LMS defense for a 51-yard touchdown run on the first play of the stanza to push their lead to 20-8.

After Johnson picked off a pass by Fields at the General 23, Spring Hill marched 77 yards to pay dirt in six plays, punctuated by an Onate 11-yard touchdown catch, to open up a 26-8 advantage midway through the third quarter.

Fields broke loose for a 55-yard touchdown run on the Tigers ensuing possession to cut the deficit to 26-14, but the Generals mounted an immediate response and stretched their lead to 34-14 late in the third quarter thanks to 13-yard reception by Oden and a Smith two-point conversion run.

Onate then recovered a Lewisburg fumble at the LMS 44, but the Tigers managed to stop Spring Hill on downs at the 25-yard line.

Still trying

Lewisburg closed the gap to 34-20 with 5:15 left in the fourth quarter when Liggett-Hightower caught a short pass from Fields in the right flat and raced 62 yards for a touchdown.

The Tigers would pull no closer, as they committed turnovers on their final two possessions before the Generals ran out the clock.