Undefeated LMS Tigers win Big South Conference title
The Big South Conference title tilt on Thursday night in Lewisburg was just the kind of game any football purist would want out of a championship matchup.
The two teams were locked in a defensive stalemate with no scoring in either the first or final quarter, but LMS scored twice in the second quarter and once at the end of the third to pick up the 21-6 win to cap off a perfect 8-0 season.
"I'm just so excited for these players to have an undefeated season," LMS coach Beau Hardison, who more than doubled the previous two season wins totals, said. "They have worked so hard the last few seasons and they deserve it. Hopefully this success will carry over into basketball season and so on."
In a fitting way to go out on top, the Tigers of Lewisburg rode the back of Demari Braden one last time, as the standout running back, who holds an unofficial touchdown record for LMS, scored all three times to go out with a bang.
"Demari is an unbelievable student-athlete," Hardison pointed out. "Not only does he excel in football and basketball, but he also excels in the classroom. He is a Beta Club member and a tremendous role model on and off the field."
"He was definitely a big part of our team's success, but he couldn't have done it without the other 47 players on the team," Hardison continued. "This team was the true definition of 'team'. I've been coaching for 20 years and this is the closest team that I have ever been a part of and they had each other's back and would do anything for each other. They were more like a family than a team."
"They knew for us to be successful that Demari had to carry the load and they did whatever it took for him and this team to succeed."
The Tigers from Witthorne tried to spoil the party by getting on the board first with a one-yard plunge into the end zone with 7:57 left in the second quarter, but the LMS defense stopped Witthorne on the two-point conversion to keep the lead at 6-0.
"They were leading 8-6 the first game (season opener) at halftime, so we knew it was going to be a battle," Hardison said. "I just kept telling the players to keep battling and to keep doing what they have done all year and good things will start to happen."
The advice proved to be prophetic as LMS scored on the Tigers first play from scrimmage after the Witthorne touchdown, as Braden took the handout 68 yards to the house to tie the game at 6-6.
Wyatt Joyce nailed the extra point to put LMS up 7-6 and Lewisburg never trailed again.
The two teams traded possessions and after LMS stopped Witthorne with time running out in the first half, Braden made easy work of the opposing defense, breaking off multiple long runs before finally hitting pay dirt with a 15-yard score with 1:07 left in the first half to give LMS the 14-6 lead at the break following another Joyce extra point.
"We really didn't make any adjustments (at halftime)," Hardison explained. "We just told them we were going to keep pounding the ball on offense and work the clock a little more."
"We challenged the defense to come up with some turnovers," Hardison added. "I think we got two in the second half."
The defense was up to that challenge as Trey Warner recovered a Witthorne fumble to set up the final LMS score of the night and the season.
After the Warner recovery, Braden waltzed into the end zone from 14 yards out to push the Tiger lead to 21-6 after a Joyce extra point with 2:12 left to play in the third period.
The LMS defense dug in its heals and refused to allow the Witthorne offense past the midfield mark and the Tigers blanked Witthorne the rest of the contest to end the season with a 21-8 victory.
"I'm a firm believer that the game isn't over until the final horn blows," Hardison stated, "I guess it really didn't sink in until we got into victory formation at the end of the game."
Following such a successful season five Tigers players--Demari Braden, Jonathan Blair, John Morgan Thomas, James Hery and Grayson Miller--were named to the all-conference team.
And with a lot of returning talent and an extremely talented coaching staff led by Hardison, look for the Tigers to be fighting for conference titles for years to come.