Lawrence County fumbles past Raymond Rangers

Published 6:00 am Monday, October 28, 2002

MONTICELLO – The Lawrence County Cougars defeated the RaymondRangers 34-12 in Region 6-4A football action Friday night. Thehomestanding Cougars overcame nine fumbles on a wet, sloppy night,to secure the important region win.

With the win, Coach Trent Hammond’s Cougars improved to 4-5overall, and 3-2 in Region 6-4A. Raymond, under first-year coachWes Slay, fell to 1-8 overall, and 0-5 in the region.

“It was a good win,” Hammond said. “Our kids played well exceptfor the fact that we fumbled the football so many times. I know itwas wet but that’s no excuse. We’ve got to protect the football.All in all, it was a good night.”

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The victory secured a 4A state playoff spot for Lawrence County,as it assured the Cougars of at least a fourth-place finish inRegion 6-4A. Last season, the playoffs were expanded to includefour teams from each region.

Prior to that, only the top two teams from the division/regionearned a playoff spot.

Basically, on the final weekend of the regular season, it comesdown to this: McComb and South Pike will play for first and secondplace in the region, and both will host a first-round playoff game.Lawrence County and Brookhaven will play for third and fourthplace, and both will be on the road in the first round of theplayoffs.

“We’re happy to be in,” Hammond said, “and we’re happy to have aspot wrapped up before having to play a very good Brookhaven teamon the road. Obviously, we’d rather win and finish third (in theregion) than fourth, but we don’t care where we play. We just wantto play.”

The Cougars seemed to enjoy playing in the slop on Friday. Thesteady rain kept the crowds away, aside from a couple hundredhearty souls. The two football teams rewarded the few fans who didshow up with a lively scrap.

Raymond’s multi-sport star Antione Clay, also one of the topbaseball players in the area, rushed for 124 yards on the night,but he fumbled on the second play of the game. Lawrence County’sDonovan Dickson recovered, setting up a five-play, 25-yard scoringdrive. Quarterback Casey Williams found paydirt on a one-yardsneak, and LCHS led 6-0. A bobbled hold foiled the extra-pointkick.

After Lawrence County’s defense stopped Raymond, the Cougarswent 58 yards in six running plays. A 30-yard Donovan Dickson runset up Kevin Wallace’s five-yard touchdown run. Williams thenpassed to Wallace for two points, to increase the Cougar lead to14-0.

That twosome — Williams and Wallace—had a big night. Williamsrushed 19 times for 110 yards and two touchdowns. He also passedfor a score. Wallace rushed 13 times for 128 yards and two scores.Fullback Randy Ferdinand (9-47) and wingbacks Dickson (6-66) andChris Jefferson (5-39) also had productive nights as LawrenceCounty amassed 390 rushing yards.

Raymond battled back as Clay bolted up the middle for 48 yardsand a touchdown. That cut the Cougar lead to 14-6. Undaunted,Lawrence County immediately raced the ball right back down thefield, earning a first down at the Raymond 13. At that point, aserious case of “fumblitis” struck the Cougars, a case that wouldlast the remainder of the game.

LCHS fumbled the ball away at the Ranger seven-yard line. AfterCougar sophomore Kenterio Hardy sacked Raymond quarterback JoshNeal to end the next possession, the Cougars quickly ripped off 44yards on three running plays. At the end of a 14-yard run,quarterback Williams lost the handle and Raymond’s Robert Brownscooped it up and raced 80 yards in the other direction.Shockingly, the Cougars, who had moved the ball absolutely at will,led just 14-12 with two minutes left in the half.

It took the Cougars just three plays and 48 seconds to answerback. First, Wallace ripped off 35.

Next, Williams went for 23. Finally, Wallace found two moreyards and an important momentum-swinging touchdown. Chris Jeffersonran for two points to give Lawrence County a 22-12 halftimelead.

The second half featured two long LCHS scoring drives, and awhole bunch of fumbles. Lawrence County took the second halfkickoff and marched 64 yards in eleven plays, recovering three ofits own fumbles in the process. Williams passed seven yards totight end Marlon Stanfield for the score. The Cougars led28-12.

After an exchange of fumbles, the Cougars got the ball back latein the third quarter. They put together a 70-yard, 14-play,eight-minute epic that would have been a masterpiece had theCougars not had to recover three more of their own fumbles. AnotherWilliams quarterback sneak put the game away at 34-12.

“Obviously, you can’t expect to fumble the ball nine times andwin very often,” Hammond said. “Fortunately, our players were ableto recover most of them or we very easily could have lost thisgame. On the other hand, if we had protected the football better,this could have been a blowout in the first half.”

Amazingly, despite fumbling nine times, the Cougars actuallyequalled the Rangers at 3-3 in the giveaway/takeaway category.Dickson and Derrick Horton had fumble recoveries for the Cougars,and Michael Thompson had a pass interception at the very end of thegame.