LMS Tigers run wild at Tullahoma
Thursday night, a road trip to Coffee County to face Tullahoma Middle School was supposed to be the as-of-yet toughest game of the season for Lewisburg Middle School.
But the ballgame quickly turned into an early rout and another version of the Demari Braden show as the elusive eighth-grade running back ran for an unofficial school record of seven touchdowns as the Tigers coasted to a 65-28 win.
The score could have been much higher, but LMS head coach Beau Hardison hit the brakes to start the fourth quarter and gave plenty of playing time to the underclassmen despite the Wildcats playing starters until the final minutes.
The Tigers are 3-0 on the season with wins over Witthorne, E.O. Coffman, and Tullahoma.
"We talked all week about how this was probably going to be one of the biggest weeks of the year," Hardison, now in his third year at the helm, said. "Tullahoma was probably the best overall team we faced last year and they beat us 14-12. This year, we knew they had the (Jackson) Sheffield kid and that big, tall receiver who is supposed to be 6-2 or 6-3."
"We watched film on them from the past two years and they ran the exact same plays," Hardison continued. "So we pretty much knew what they were going to run on offense but they couldn't stop us on offense, so we pretty much kept pounding and plugging away from there."
The "Sheffield kid" Hardison refers to is Jackson Sheffield, the youngest brother of former Tullahoma baseball stars and first round Major League Baseball draft picks Jordan and Justus Sheffield.
And the youngest Sheffield seems to be just as athletic as his older siblings.
Sheffield scored all four of the Wildcat touchdowns on one kickoff return, one touchdown run, and two touchdown catches.
That was all the Wildcats’ offense could muster.
"Tullahoma is a good team," Hardison reiterated. "When they came in they were 2-0 and had outscored Shelbyville (Harris) and Coffee County 46-6. So we knew they could score. We had a really good night on the defensive side of the ball."
The Tigers on the other hand, picked up seven touchdowns from Braden, a kickoff return score from Montai Vaughn, and a late touchdown pass from Trey Warner to Antomme Cowthorn.
The Tigers picked up a good cushion from the opening whistle as Braden racked up two early touchdowns for a 14-0 lead.
The firepower continued as Braden got the Tigers down in the red zone as the first period expired.
Braden then took the opening play of the second quarter into the end zone from three yards out and with just over 10 minutes expired in the contest, the Tigers held a 20-0 advantage.
The Tigers continued to overwhelm the Wildcats on both sides of the ball as Tullahoma went three-and-out before Braden scored a mind-boggling fourth touchdown on the next possession when the running back broke off a 20-yard run on a fourth-and-10 play.
Sheffield finally gave the Wildcats a little hope with a 55-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 26-8 after a successful two-point conversion catch.
The first half ended with a flurry of offense from both teams as Montai Vaughn took the kickoff 70 yards for another Tiger score to push the lead to 32-8, but Sheffield answered with a 60-yard touchdown on the ensuing kickoff to trim the lead to 32-14.
However, Braden rushed the ball for 16 yards and then 34 yards following an incomplete pass before finally breaking into the end zone from three yards out with 22 seconds left in the half for a 38-14 Tiger lead at the break.
For a split second, the Wildcats made the Tigers nervous.
Sheffield took a screen pass 29 yards for a score and the Wildcats added two more points on a Martinez to Charlie Pierce catch after the touchdown to pull within 38-22 at the 6:18 mark in the third quarter.
But just a fast, Braden took two carries, one for 29 yards and one for 23 yards and the threat was eliminated with the Tigers back up 45-22 after a Wyatt Joyce extra point kick.
The Tigers regained the ball after Annie Martin recovered a Wildcat fumble, two plays later Grayson Miller raced 45 yards for another Tiger scored to extend the lead to 51-22.
Sheffield managed to put the Wildcats on the board one last time via a 55-yard touchdown catch on a screen pass, but the score was too little too late as Braden tacked on another kick return touchdown. After two Jonathan Blair Wildcat sacks, Mason Warner hit J.D. Clark for a 35-yard catch before tossing a five-yard touchdown pass to Cowthorn for the 65-28 final with 1:00 left in the third quarter.
The Tigers have outscored the first three opponents 123-50 to jump out to 3-0 after winning just three combined games over the previous two seasons.
But is the lack of a close game a problem for Hardison and his Tigers?
"One thing about this team, they don't give up and they fight to the end," Hardison noted. "That's all that we can ask out of them. But we would hope that 3-0 is not gonna hurt them, but they're middle school kids. The good thing is that they beat Tullahoma tonight, tomorrow is Friday and they're gonna forget about it already."
"We just have to come back to work next week," Hardison added. "We have Bridgeforth in Pulaski and that's always tough because it's a big rival game."