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Lawrence Co. rips Raymond; hosts Brookhaven next

RAYMOND – The Lawrence County Cougars defeated the RaymondRangers 53-14 in Region 6-4A high school football action Fridaynight. The Cougars led 27-0 at the end of the first quarter andwere never seriously threatened by the Rangers.

With the win, Trent Hammond’s Cougars improved to 8-1 overalland 4-1 in Region 6-4A play. The win assured the Cougars of a state4A playoff spot with but one regular season game remaining. TheCougars host region rival Brookhaven Friday night.

While happy to win, Hammond said he saw plenty of room forimprovement. “It’s great to win, and it’s great to know that we’llbe in the playoffs but I didn’t think we had our best nighttonight. We gave up too much defensively, and we weren’t realsmooth offensively. We bobbled the ball around some and we didn’tphysically dominate them the way we’d like to.”

Hammond may not have thought so but his ground game was againpretty dominant. Senior fullback Johnathan Eley had his biggestnight of the season with 201 yards and three touchdowns. WingbackWayne Hardy went for 106 yards and two touchdowns on just fivecarries. Together, they overshadowed a heroic performance byRaymond’s Frank White who carried 34 times for 203 yards and caughtfive passes for 32 yards and a touchdown.

Hammond’s club started quickly. On the fourth play fromscrimmage, the Cougars’ Jason Snell intercepted a Josh Neal passand returned it 47 yards to the Raymond 15. It took just one playfor Hardy to find the end zone and LCHS led 6-0.

Following a Raymond punt, the Cougars next found themselveshaving to start way back at their own 11. The field position didn’tprove to be a problem. Snell ran for 24 with a shoestring tacklekeeping him from going the distance. On the very next play, Eleydid go the distance, 65 yards to make it a 12-0 game.

After the Lawrence County defense forced another punt, it tookthe Cougars just two plays to go 62 yards for another score. Thefinal 39 came on Hardy’s second TD run of the night. QuarterbackCasey Williams kept the two points and Lawrence County’s lead wasup to 20-0.

Hardy, a defensive standout for the Cougars as far back as their1999 state championship team, returned to his defensive roots onthe next series, intercepting a Josh Neal pass and returning it 48yards for another score. The first quarter came to a merciful endwith Lawrence County leading 27-0, despite having ran just fiveoffensive plays.

Early in the second quarter, White got Raymond on the board,taking a ‘Utah” shovel pass 18 yards for a score. The Rangers’ joywas short-lived, however, as Charles “Buck” Barnes returned theensuing kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown, making the score33-6.

Raymond responded with another impressive touchdown drive, butlate in the half, the Cougars got that one back when Williams hitSnell with a 57-yard touchdown pass. Eley’s PAT kick gave LawrenceCounty a comfortable 40-12 halftime lead.

The Cougars put the game away for good on the opening drive ofthe second half. Eley ran for 31 yards and a touchdown. Eley evenkicked the extra point and LCHS led 47-12.

Late in the third, Eley capped Lawrence County’s scoring with aseven-yard TD run, his 17th of the season, equaling Hardy for theteam lead. Raymond got a late safety to make it 53-14 lead.

Lawrence County is assured of a playoff spot, but not much else.With Lawrence County taking on Brookhaven and South Pike playingMcComb in the final week of the regular season, the Cougars couldfinish anywhere from first to fourth in the Region. The top twoteams will get to play at home during the first playoff round Nov.9, while the third and fourth place teams will be forced to take tothe road.

“The four playoff teams from our division are set,” Hammondsaid, “so there isn’t the pressure of having to win this week toget in . But, obviously, we’d love to be able to host a playoffgame. We control our destiny in that regard. Brookhaven’s anoutstanding team, though. We’ll have to play very well to have anychance.”