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McDonald shoulders the load at Lawrence Co.

MONTICELLO – Nicholas “Nico” McDonald ignored the pain, put the team on his back and carried the Lawrence County Cougars to a 33-14 Friday night victory over the Prentiss Bulldogs. He accounted for 169 yards and three touchdowns, sparking his team to their first win of the 2012 season.

     McDonald scored on runs of 45, 7 and 17 yards. That performance has earned him The DAILY LEADER’s Offensive Player of the Week recognition.

     LCHS first-year head coach David Parker praised his senior’s performance. “Nico put the game on his shoulders. He scored three touchdowns. A lot of people don’t know he was injured. He had a bad shoulder sprain. He couldn’t throw the ball at all but we had to put them in there.”

     Parker said McDonald has the physical skills to run the Flexbone, aka the new LCHS offense.

     “Nico has really good vision and he cuts real well,” said Parker. “Once he gets open, he can pretty well outrun anybody. He has good speed.”

     McDonald (5-11, 185) has been a starting quarterback since his sophomore year.

     “It felt really good to get that first win,” said McDonald. “We worked really hard to get ready to win. We came out and played well.

     “I tried to make things happen,” he continued. “I was depending on my offensive line. They made it happen.”

     McDonald received some key blocks along the way to the Promised Land. Working in the LCHS offensive line are Blake Lambert at left tackle, J.D. McGruder at left guard, Jesse Hedgepeth at center, Noah McLaurin and Jake Lambert at right guard and Octavious Barnes at right tackle.

     This is McDonald’s fourth year of varsity competition. He has been working at quarterback since the 10th grade. He was playing strong safety on defense as a freshman.

     Former LCHS head coach Mike Davis was looking for a quarterback to run the Wing-T offense. McDonald’s potential was recognized.

     “Coach Davis wanted me to try quarterback,” said McDonald. “Everything worked out from there.”

     The Cougars have one of the toughest non-district schedules in Mississippi. They opened the season against Hazlehurst, the 2011 Class 3A runner-up. Class 5A Brookhaven beat them the next week and the Magee Trojans triumphed the third week.

     What does McDonald think about his team’s chances in the Region 7-4A race?

     “We must work really hard to get a position in the region,” answered McDonald. “We know it won’t be easy. These tough (non-region) teams help us get ready for it.”

     The Cougars finished fourth in the region last season, behind Tylertown, Purvis and South Pike, losing to Laurel in the first round of the state playoffs.

     McDonald ran a swift 4.47 in the 40-yard dash at Mississippi State’s football camp this summer. His strength in the weight room is impressive, too. He maxed out at 390 pounds in the squat. He bench presses 230 and power cleans 260.

     His guardians are Carolyn and Robert E. Young.

     McDonald said the team’s new boss has a strong work ethic. “Coach Parker is really pushing us every day. He lets us know what we have to do to get better and how to be successful. He tells us that we aren’t the most athletic team. We have to fight and execute every game.”

     He said he wants to play college football and use it as a springboard to a career in sports medicine.

     In the meantime, McDonald said, “I want to win as many ballgames as we can and make the playoffs.”

     In his spare time, McDonald follows the LSU Tigers and Mississippi State Bulldogs on football Saturdays. On Sundays, he watches the New Orleans Saints. His favorite player is former Saint Tracy Porter, who plays cornerback for the Denver Broncos.