Lawrence Co. overcones McComb
MONTICELLO – The Lawrence County Cougars defeated the McCombTigers 28-19 in Region 6-4A football action Friday night. LawrenceCounty erupted for 21 first-quarter points, then fought off adetermined McComb challenge throughout the second half. The matchupwas a meeting of the last two Mississippi 4A champions, withLawrence County having claimed the title in 1999 and McComb winningit last year.
The game also had special meaning to first-year Lawrence Countyhead coach Trent Hammond who was an assistant coach on both ofthose state championship teams, returning to Lawrence as head coachafter one year as a McComb assistant.
“This was a great night for our kids and for our program,”Hammond said. “It wasn’t the prettiest football game you’ll eversee but a win of any sort over a team of McComb’s caliber is agreat win.
“I have all the respect in the world for McComb,” Hammond added.”Coach (Ted) Milton is one of my closest friends and I care verydeeply for their players and their staff. I expect them to be verymuch alive and in the thick of things when playoff time comesaround.”
Hammond may well end up with a November playoff date himself.Most folks expected his rebuilding Cougars to really take theirlumps this fall but it hasn’t happened. the win over McComb wasLawrence County’s second straight over a reigning state championand the third in a row over a team which beat Lawrence County lastseason.
With the win over McComb and with the MHSAA’s announcement thatCollins had forfeited its opening-week win over the Cougars becauseof an ineligible player, Lawrence County improved to a 4-0 on theseason and 1-0 in region play. McComb fell to 1-3 overall and 0-1in the region.
Once again, the Lawrence County attack was led by itstriple-threat rushing attack. The potent trio of Johnathan Eley,Charles Barnes and Wayne Hardy combined to rush 49 times for 298yards. Quarterback Jason Snell added 38 tough yards and atouchdown.
The first quarter was the key for Lawrence County. After a goodkickoff return by Barnes to start the game, LCHS drove 48 yards ineight plays to take a 7-0 lead, overcoming a clipping penalty inthe process. Hardy’s eight-yarder netted paydirt. Eley set it upwith an 11-yard burst.
After forcing a McComb punt, the Cougars struck quickly, going58 yards in just three plays. Barnes ripped off 37. Eley added 16,and Hardy scored from his five for a 14-0 LCHS lead. Eley kickedhis second extra point.
McComb’s Marcus Gatlin kept the Tigers in the game at thatpoint, going 88 yards with the ensuing kickoff to cut LawrenceCounty’s margin to 14-7. Lawrence County’s offense got that oneright back, however, driving 58 yards in 10 straight running plays.Eley eventually crashed in from the one, making it 21-7.
“That was sort of the story of our night offensively,” Hammondsaid. “We struggled a bit after that great first quarter, but wewere facing long yardage situations the whole time. We got moreholds and clips tonight than in the three other games combined.That, combined with McComb’s great defense, made it toughgoing.
Lawrence County held the ball for most of the second quarter butMcComb got the only points. After a botched quick-kick deep in theCougar’s own end, McComb’s Chad Lyons hit Michael Lewis for 13yards and a touchdown to cut the lead to 21-12 just beforehalftime. The extra point kick was wide right.
The third quarter was scoreless as the Lawrence County defenseheld McComb in check and the Cougar offense continued to hurtitself with blocking infractions.
Early in the fourth quarter, McComb cashed in on the loneLawrence County turnover of the night, a fumble. Five plays afterthe fumble, the Tigers’ Michael Lewis scored on a six-yard run tomake it a 21-19 game. The all-important two-point conversionattempt failed and the Cougars clung to the slimmest of leads.
McComb had its chances, but with 1:54 left in the game with theTigers facing fourth-and five at their own 28, Barnes sacked Lyonsfor a 15-yard loss. Three plays later, quarterback Snell scored ona five-yard run. Eley’s fourth-straight PAT kick gave the Cougarsan insurmountable nine-point lead at 28-19.
Next up for Lawrence County is a date at South Pike. The Eagles,a preseason Region 6-4Afavorite along with McComb, have defeated 5Apowerhouses Warren Central and Vicksburg on consecutive weeks.Hammond knows that his club has its wagon loaded.
“South Pike is outstanding and it’ll be tough down at theirplace,” Hammond said. “And, as good as the season has gone so far,we need to catch a break from the injury bug. We’re not a deep teamat all, and we’ve been hit pretty hard the last couple of weeks.Hopefully, we’ll catch a break in that regard.”
Times of Possession
6 – 19
7 – 28
LC – Hardy 8 run (Eley kick)
LC – Hardy 5 run (Eley kick)
MC – Gatlin 88 kickoff return (Barnes kick)
LC – Eley 1 run (Eley kick)
Mc – Lewis 27 pass from Lyons (kick failed)
Mc – Lewis 6 run (run failed)
LC – Snell 5 run (Eley kick)
RUSHING: LC Eley 23-110, Barnes 10-103, Hardy 16-85,Snell 9-38. MC, Lewis 9-77, Martin 10-53.
PASSING: Mc, Lyons 6-14-0, 86.