Lawrence Co. beats Mendenhall in season debut
Published 5:00 am Monday, August 28, 2000
MENDENHALL – The Lawrence County Cougars defeated Mendenhall22-15 in Class 4A action Friday night.
MENDENHALL – The Lawrence County Cougars defeated Mendenhall22-15 in Class 4A action Friday night. Thus, Lawrence Countysuccessfully began its defense of the Mississippi 4A championshipit won in 1999. The Cougars used a time-consuming, ball-controloffense to grind away much of the game and produce three touchdowndrives.
Despite Lawrence County’s status as the reigning 4A champions,there were plenty who considered the Cougars underdogs toMendenhall, a team the Cougars handily defeated twice during its14-0 championship run of last year.
LCHS graduated an outstanding class of 18 seniors from thatchampionship club, while the Tigers returned most of the team thatearned Mendenhall a 4A playoff berth in 1999. Still, LawrenceCounty perservered, claiming its fifth win over Mendenhall in fouryears.
Third-year Lawrence County head coach Danny Adams, who saw histeam improve to an incredible 25-2 during his tenure at the school,was understandably pleased.
“I’m very proud of this team,” an enthusiastic Adams said. “Tocome in here against a quality opponent and win on their home turf,was a great accomplishment for our kids. It wasn’t all that pretty,but it was a great win.”
Lawrence County set the tone for the night in the game’s firstpossession. After a touchback on the opening kickoff, the Cougarsdrove 80 yards in 14 plays, using up almost eight minutes in theprocess. Fullback Johnathan Eley capped the drive with a two-yeartouchdown plunge, giving LCHS a 6-0 lead. The PAT attempt wasunsuccessful.
Eley’s first night as a featured back was a good one. He carried19 times for 89 yards and two touchdowns.
After the Cougar defense forced a punt on Mendenhall’s firstpossession, the LCHS defense went at it again. Overcoming a holdingpenalty on the first play of the series, the Cougars drove 69 yardsin 10 plays to make it a 14-0 game. Eley banged in from seven yardsout, and quarterback Jerry Smith added a two-point conversionrun.
The veteran Smith also had a solid night. He rushed 14 times for89 yards, and completed two of five passes for 34. Under hisguidance, the Cougars did not turn the ball over a single time.
At the start of the second half, it was Mendenhall’s offensewhich took momentary control of the game. Led by senior quarterbackJames Hobbs, the Tigers drove 67 yards in 12 plays to cut theirdeficit to 14-7, as Roderick Bridges scored on a 10-yard run.
After Lawrence County was forced to punt on its ensuingpossession, LCHS linebacker Eskrie Rhodes made a big play,recovering a Mendenhall fumble at the Tiger 44-yard line. Fromthere, the Cougars ground out a 10-play drive that ended when Eleyscored on a three-yard run. Jerry Smith again ran for two points togive the Cougars a 22-7 lead.
Mendenhall did not die easily. The Tigers responded with anotherlong touchdown drive to cut the lead to 22-15. Hobbs scored on afour-yard run.
With just over four minutes left to play, the Tigers disdainedthe on-side kick and kicked off deep to the Cougars. Mendenhallnever touched the ball again. With eight straight running plays,LCHS moved the first-down chain three times, thus securing winnumber one.
Defensively, the new-look Cougars were,effective, if not spectacular. Though LCHS allowed two long drives,the Cougars generally did a good job of containing Hobbs and hisMendenhall backfield mates. For the night, Mendenhall was limitedto 191 yards of total offense, 177 of it on the ground.
Unofficially, linebacker Wayne Hardy led LCHS with a total ofeight tackles. Fellow backer Todd Johnson, defensive tackle CharlieWelch and defensive end Mathew Aultman were in on six apiece.
This week, the Cougars will again venture into Simpson County asthey take on the Class 3A powerhouse Magee Trojans. Magee lost 14-8to Columbia on Friday.
First Downs 17 12
Rushes-Yards 46-259 37-177
Passing Yards 34 14
Total Yards 293 191
Passes 2-5-0 1-2-0
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 5-30 3-30
Punts-Average 2-24 2-37
Time of Possession 29:15 18:45
Lawrence County 6 8 0 8 – 22
Mendenhall 0 0 7 8 – 15
Lawrence Co., Sibley 2 run (kick failed)
Lawrence Co., Eley 7 run (Smith run)
Mendenhall, Bridges 10 run (Thornton kick)
Lawrence Co., Eley 3 run (Smith run)
Mendenhall, Hobbs 4 run (Roberson run)
RUSHING: Lawrence, Eley 19-89, Smith 14-89, Sibley10-67,
Barnes 2-6, Graves 1-8; Mendenhall, NA.
PASSING: Lawrence, Smith 2-5-0, 34; Mendenhall,NA.
RECEIVING: Lawrence, Sibley 1-14, Eley1-20.