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Lawrence County’s 2nd half trounces NEL

MONTICELLO-The Lawrence County Cougars hammered the NortheastLauderdale Trojans 35-7 in opening-round 4A playoff footballaction. Lawrence County broke open a 7-7 halftime tie, dominatingthe second half behind running back Kendrick Hardy. Hardy rushedfor 256 yards and 3 touchdowns.

With the win, Coach Mike Davis’ Cougars improved to 10-1 on theseason, and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. NortheastLauderdale, coached by Steve Nelson, finished its season at6-5.

“We had a pretty good night,” Davis said. “Aside from penalties, wehad a very good night. It wasn’t an easy game by any means, but Ifelt like our guys controlled play, for the most part.”

Statistically, Lawrence County was as dominant in the first half asin the second. But the Cougars got nailed for 5 holding penaltiesin their first 6 offensive possessions, and that was enough to keepNortheast Lauderdale in the game.

“That was frustrating,” Davis admitted. “We felt like we controlledthe first half, but there we were, in a 7-7 tie at halftime. Thekids kept plugging, though, and had a little better fortune in thesecond half.”

With 6 minutes left in the first half, Isaiah Ferdinand ripped offa 45-yard run, which set up Hardy’s first score of the night, an11-yarder. Rishawn Haynes’ kick made it a 7-0 game.

Northeast’s offense was having no success against the LCHS defense,led by the Herculean effort of senior defensive end Randy Sims. Butthe Trojans’ special teams came up with a big play that led to thetying score. On the ensuing kickoff, Ben Brooks returned the kickto the LCHS 10-yard line.

On fourth-and-inches, Trojan quarterback Marquez Hopson was judgedto have broken the plane of the end zone before being thrown backinto his own backfield. LCHS defenders disagreed vehemently, butJason White’s kick knotted the score at 7-7.

At the start of the second half, Cougar sophomore Mathew Wellsresponded with a big special teams play of his own, returning thekickoff 87 yards for a touchdown. Lawrence County led 14-7, and theTrojans would never seriously threaten after that.

On the night, Lawrence County amassed a whopping 477 yards of totaloffense. Northeast Lauderdale netted only 87. Along with Hardy’sbig night, Ferdinand (11-110) and Josh Cameron (12-88) also had bignights for the Cougars.

With less than 2 minutes remaining in the third quarter, Hardybroke loose on a 78-yard touchdown run. That made it 21-7, and withthe LCHS defense dominating the Trojan defense, it pretty muchsealed Northeast Lauderdale’s fate.

Early in the fourth quarter, Ferdinand broke what would have been a54-yard touchdown run, but the Cougars’ sixth holding penalty ofthe night, along with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, pushedLCHS deep into its own territory. Unfazed, the Cougars simply gavethe ball to Hardy, who, on third-and-33, raced 77 yards for anotherscored.

Late in the game, Josh Cameron added a 9-yard touchdown run for theCougars.

Along with Sims, linebacker Julius Magee was also a defensivestandout for Lawrence County. He had a fumble recovery.

Lawrence County advances to take on Picayune in a second-roundplayoff game Friday at Picayune. The Maroon Tide advanced to thesecond round with an overtime win over Gautier. Lawrence County andPicayune have never met in football.

“We’re excited to still be playing,” Coach Davis said, “but wewon’t be doing anything different. Our work week is pretty much thesame, whether it’s September or November. We’ll prepare for anoutstanding Picayune team as best we can. We’re having a greattime, with a great group of kids, so we’d love to keep this goingfor a while.”