Lawrence Co. Cougars cruise past Columbia

Published 5:00 am Monday, October 17, 2005

COLUMBIA — The Lawrence County Cougars defeated the ColumbiaWildcats 27-6 in high school football action Friday in MarionCounty. The visiting Cougars, playing on the road for the fifthtime in six games, spotted Columbia an early lead, then scored 3straight second-quarter touchdowns to take control of the game.

With the win, Lawrence County, under second-year coach MikeDavis, improved to 3-3 on the season. The Cougars are 2-1 in Region6-4A play. Columbia, coached by Marcus Wood, fell to 2-4 on thecampaign.

For Lawrence County, coming off a disheartening 40-0 defeat atMendenhall, the victory provided a much-needed morale boost.

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“We needed a win tonight,” Davis said. “Our kids played hard atMendenhall, but nothing went right. When we gave up that earlytouchdown tonight, we could’ve been in for another tough night, butour kids didn’t allow that. They played hard on both sides of theball, and we did a better job of protecting the ball thisweek.”

Lawrence County was buoyed by the return of senior running backTaebyus Smith. Smith suffered a broken bone in his lower left legin a pre-season scrimmage at Petal. Smith gained just 50 yards on17 carries, but they were bruising, hard-earned yards. Smith earnedfirst downs on 6 of those carries, 3 of those on fourth-downplays.

“It was good having Taebyus back,” Davis said. “He’s ourmost-experienced player. That alone brings a certain confidencewith it. He’s been in the middle of some high-pressure playoffgames. Very few of our guys have been in situations like that.”

Sophomore Isaiah Ferdinand led Lawrence County with 82 yards,and 2 touchdowns, on 15 carries. Quarterback Will Harris alsoscored twice. He ran for 38 yards and passed for 63 more.

Columbia largely had its way in the first quarter. The Wildcatstook the opening kickoff and drove the length of the field, only tobe stopped on a fourth-down play at the LCHS 11-yard line. TheCougars’ Dontray Collins and Murphy Peyton broke through to stopColumbia’s Brandon Johnson.

Lawrence County’s respite was only momentary. After quicklyforcing a Cougar punt, the Wildcats took the lead when DustinMcNeese hit David Newsome with a 30-yard touchdown pass.

Lawrence County responded with a 9-play, 64-yard drive. Thatmarch culminated on the opening play of the second quarter withFerdinand’s 19-yard scamper. Travis Stalans’s P.A.T. kick gave LCHSa 7-6 lead.

Cougar linebacker Julius Magee recovered a Columbia fumble onthe ensuing kickoff, one of two recoveries by Magee on the night.Curtis Carr also had a fumble recovery. Five plays later, Harrisscored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak to make it a 14-6 game.

After a Columbia punt, the Cougars quickly struck again. Harrishit Mackenzie Woods for 44 yards, down to the Wildcat 4-yard line.Harris scored on the next play to it make 21-6.

Columbia threatened late in the half, but Lawrence County’sJustin Hammond intercepted a McNeese pass in the end zone.

The absence of a functioning clock—the work of HurricaneKatrina—makes it impossible to say just how long Lawrence Countyheld the football in the second half. Eighteen of the 24 minuteswould be a conservative estimate. Columbia ran just 13 plays in thehalf, 7 of them in a hurry-up mode in the game’s waningmoments.

The lone score of the half resulted from a 16-play, 59-yarddrive that used up almost the entire fourth quarter. Ferdinandscored on a 3-yard run. LCHS employed the two-tight, double-wingoffensive set that was the Cougars’ standard in previous seasons.Lawrence County has employed a 4-wideout, shotgun set for much ofthis season.

“We’ve been working on both all along,” Davis said. “We’ve beenusing the tight set in short yardage and goal line situations allseason.”

Brandon Johnson led Columbia with 65 rushing yards on 15attempts, and 2 receptions for 27 yards.

Lawrence County will play 2 of its final 3 regular season gamesat home, starting this Friday with Terry. The Cougars lost a homedate with Franklin County in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Asa result, the Cougars have enjoyed playing at home just once, a33-16 victory over Port Gibson.

“We were on the road for our last two games last season,” Davissaid, “so seven of our last eight have been on the road. We don’tmind going on the road, but it will be nice for our team, and forour fans, to finally be at home for a couple of games.”