By Michael Walker
---- — New Market - Though the final score of 34-8 may not indicate it, Lebanon earned a hard fought victory Friday night to remain among a perfect 4-0.
The Mounties gave Lebanon all they could handle for three quarters, before Isaac Harker used the option to blow the game open late in the second half.
“We harped all week on not letting up and not overlooking these guys,” said Lebanon head coach Kent Wright. “This team has kind of snuck up on us the past few years and I’m proud of our kids for responding in the second half.”
To his point, Southmont had beaten the Tigers three of the past four seasons, but it seemed the coaching staff had gotten their point across throughout the week of practice.
If their coach’s message wasn’t enough the Mounties first half showing surely did the trick as the teams went into the locker room in a scoreless tie at the intermission.
In what might be the fastest half of football the Tigers play all season, just under 50 minutes real time, both teams had long drives deep into enemy territory, but each were turned away. Lebanon’s first possession resulted in a turnover on downs just outside the Mountie 30-yardline. Southmont then followed suit on their second possession as Lebanon made a goal line stand to preserve the 0-0 tie.
Following the missed opportunities the teams would exchange both interceptions and punts as a relatively quiet first half came to a close to a close.
“I told our kids that this was going to be the best ‘D’ we have faced to this point,” said Wright. “We talked at halftime about not getting frustrated and continuing to do what we do and eventually it would come.”
Though their coach was correct, it would certainly come, it was not going to be without difficulties. The Tigers would open the second half with dropped passes and penalties that completely derailed any offensive rhythm as the two team continued to trade punts.
Then midway through the third quarter Southmont quarterback Devon Burton found a bit of luck. Burton put together an 8-play scoring drive that really amounted to a pair of outstanding efforts.
The first was a 24-yard scamper off the right side from wingback Chance Brown. The second came on a fourth-and-twelve from the 32-yard line. Burton dropped back to pass, but was chased out of the pocket before delivering a strike to Zach Worm, who was cutting back across the end zone. The 32-yard touchdown, and Burton’s 2-point conversion, gave Southmont an 8-0 lead with just 2:07 left in the third.
That, however, would be the last time the ball would cross into Lebanon territory. Southmont was assessed a personal foul from the 2-point conversion and a false start on their first attempt making their kickoff from the 20-yard line.
This gave Lebanon great field position as they set up shop at the Southmont 47. After two plays straight up the gut from Wright, Harker then faked the handoff and kept the option off the right side, broke an arm tackle and rumbled 38 yards for the answering touchdown. Wright added a 2-point conversion to retie the game at 8-8 with just 0:47 left in the third. Harker finished the night with nine carries for 92 yards.
Though it was not his first keeper of the night, it seemed to be the one that broke open the flood gates. Southmont’s ensuing possession was a one-and-done as Burton fumbled the handoff and Kyle Williams was ‘Johnnie on the spot’ for the recovery. Three plays and 24 yards later Wright was waltzing his way into the end zone for the score. The 12-yard run, maybe his easiest of the night gave Lebanon a 15-8 lead and they never looked back.
After a holding penalty negated a big first down for the Mounties and forced a punt, the Tigers were on the march again. This time it was a 44-yard drive in which Wright pounded his way up the gut on five of the seven plays before setting up a nicely executed play-action pass from Harker. Following the fake handoff he found Zach Unger all alone for the 21-yard touchdown.
After a quick Southmont four-and-out near midfield, Wright would once again reach paydirt as he carried five straight times for 40 yards, including a 15-yarder in which he drug would be tacklers for the score. The blocked extra point made it 28-8. Wright’s night included 39 carries for 180 punishing yards and three scores.
The final touchdown came after another Southmont fumble as Wright was again pushing the pile from six yards out. His third touchdown of the night put the finishing touches on a 34-8 second half dismantling of the Mounties.
Next week Lebanon will put its unbeaten mark on the line as they host the Frankfort Hot Dogs for Homecoming.
“We shouldn’t have any problem staying focused,” said Wright. “We have some goals we want to accomplish and I know we will be up for Frankfort on homecoming.”