Whitthorne ekes out win over LMS Tigers
Football officially arrived in Marshall County on Thursday night as new LMS head coach Beau Hardison opened up with longtime conference rival Whitthorne from Maury County after picking a 7-0 win over Liberty in the preseason jamboree the previous weekend.
The new look Tigers sent a message from the outset that they would be a force to be reckoned with in the Big South Conference as the blue and white aired it out and took a 12-0 lead against a team that had routed the Lewisburg team with ease the previous two seasons.
A series of mistakes led to a Whitthorne 16-12 halftime lead, but the Tigers battled back to creep to within 22-20 late in the fourth quarter before a subsequent onside kick was unsuccessful and Lewisburg Middle School opened the season with a hard fought loss.
"Our game plan was pretty simple but we didn't execute it very well," Hardison explained. "Before the game I told the players that whoever took care of the football and had the fewest penalties would win the game."
"We gave up a scoop and score and a pick six," Hardison continued. "You aren't going to win many games doing that. We also had a touchdown called back because on an ineligible receiver down field. Take away those mistakes and we win and probably win easily."
Hardison started off the game with a strategy very few middle school squads utilize---the air raid.
A combo that Marshall County faithful will be hearing a lot of for the next few seasons--Devontae Davis and Bryson Hammons-- connected often as Hammons found a streaking Davis in the first quarter and the Tigers took a commanding 6-0 lead.
LMS looked to drive the wedge even deeper on Whitthorne, but a second touchdown was called back because of an ineligible receiver downfield and the miscue seemed to turn the tide for the rest of the half.
With the Tigers on the brink of yet another score, a quick thinking Whitthorne lineman scooped up a Tiger fumble and ran the length of the field to tie the ballgame.
The next Tiger possession resulted in a Whitthorne touchdown drive and a game the Tigers once held firmly in hand started to get out of control.
However, the Tigers found life on the next series as Davis caught a 10-yard strike from Hammons on fourth and four and Kamarion Ingram added a 13-yard run to keep the momentum flowing.
Hammons once again found Davis for a 22-yard strike before the dynamic duo hooked up one more time before the half for a 22-yard touchdown pass to pull the deficit to 16-12.
"We didn't make a whole lot of adjustments at the half," Hardison said. "We just kept encouraging the kids and discussed what was working and what wasn't."
"We are a very inexperienced, not very young just an inexperienced team," Hardison added.
The two conference rivals battled back and forth throughout the third quarter, with multiple three-and-outs from both sides before another LMS miscue lead to final Whitthorne score of the ballgame.
Ingram started off another LMS series on a positive note by notching a first down on a 15-yard carry, but Hammons was sacked for a 13-yard loss and a screen pass to Davis was blown up for a loss of 15 more yards before Hammons threw an interception to Jason McMillian, who returned the turnover 45 yards for a touchdown for a 22-12 lead.
Something you want to see from a new coach his team's response to adversity and the Tigers refused to fold, driving the length of the field on the next possession before Ingram broke through the middle on a 15-yard touchdown before LMS added two more points on a conversion run to cut the lead to two points.
The ensuing onside kick came up a yard short to be eligible, but a message was send to the rest of the Big South Conference.
Don't sleep on Lewisburg Middle School in 2017.
"I haven't even thought about the past two years," Hardison stated. "We had a good preseason and they have responded well to everything that we have thrown at them."
"As bad as we played, we were still (in the game) at the end," Hardison continued. "They never gave up and that's something to be proud of. All in all we gave ourselves a chance to win and never gave up and that's all we can ask of them. We hit the road this week to take on a tough West Wilson team."
The Tigers travel to West Wilson on Thursday for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.