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Hilliard directs LCHS into state playoffs

MONTICELLO – Junior quarterback LaQuan Hilliard rushed for 116yards and 3 touchdowns, and passed for another TD as the LawrenceCounty Cougars outscored the Columbia Wildcats 42-28 in Region 7-4Ahigh school football action Friday night.

With the win, Lawrence County clinched a spot in the state 4Afootball playoffs.

After Columbia knotted the game at 14-14 early in the secondquarter, Lawrence County broke the game open with 4 straighttouchdowns to take a commanding 42-14 lead. Columbia scored 2 latetouchdowns, largely against Lawrence County reserves.

With the win, Lawrence County improved to 5-5 overall, and 3-1 inDivision 7-4A play. Columbia, coached by Doug Norris, fell to 2-8on the season, and 0-4 in the division.

“We had a good night,” said seventh-year Cougar coach Mike Davis.”I thought LaQuan continued to grow at quarterback, leading us to agood night offensively. We gave up some yards and pointsdefensively, but a lot of those came with their ones (starters)playing against our reserves. All in all, we did what we needed todo tonight.”

Davis’ Cougars travel to Port Gibson Friday for the final regularseason game, still with a chance to finish second in the division,and earn the first-round home playoff game that comes withit.

“We’ve got to go out and put in a good week of work,” Davis said,”because this isn’t the Port Gibson that people used to beat up on.If we can earn a win there, and some other things fall our way,we’d love to host a home playoff game. That’s our goal right now,but it won’t be easy.”

The offenses dominated the first half of Friday’s game. Columbiaquarterback Aaron Ellzey ran for 51 yards and a touchdown on thegame’s opening possession. LCHS responded immediately with aHilliard-to-Shane Melzer 20-yard scoring toss. Late in the firstquarter, Trevor Havis, who kicked 6 straight extra points, scoredon an 8-yard run, giving the Cougars a 14-7 lead.

Early in the second quarter, Columbia’s John Silas, who rushed for103 yards on the night, tied the game with a 17-yard run. The tiewas short-lived, however, as Lawrence County’s Glenn Russell, Jr.returned the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown. Later in thehalf, Hilliard scored on a 16-yard run, and followed that 3 minuteslater with an 18-yard scoring jaunt. It was 35-14 at thehalf.

The pace slowed a bit in the second half. Hilliard scored on a7-yarder late in the third quarter to extend the Cougars’ lead. Inthe fourth, with many LCHS starters cooling on the sideline, Ellzeyconnected with Barry Davis for a Wildcat touchdown. Late in thegame, freshman backup signal caller Edward Forbes scored on a6-yard run.

Along with his long kickoff return, Russell rushed 11 times for 104yards. William Turnage gained 49 yards on 5 carries, and Havisrushed 5 times for 40 yards.

Defensively, the Cougars got strong play from linebackers JustinBarnes and Lakendrick Barnes. Both had sacks against quarterbackEllzey, and Lakendrick Barnes intercepted a pass.

Ellzey completed 9 of 21 passes for 111 yards, to lead Columbia.Forbes completed 2 of 5 passes for 62 yards, and ran for a score.Senior linebacker Dominic Tovell was a major force for the Wildcatdefense.