Nov 10, 2012
Leesville Road was just good enough to win Friday night in Apex, forcing five Middle Creek turnovers and riding an overwhelming rushing attack to a 37-30 win in a game that featured seven lead changes and plenty of hard hitting.
After going up 21-10 in the first half and looking to be in control of the game, Leesville had to rally twice in the final quarter and a half to secure the win. Quarterback Evan Parker made the score 29-23 Leesville with 4:54 left in the third quarter with a 3-yard touchdown run, but Middle Creek would answer 52 seconds later when Naaylan Lopez rumbled in from 11 yards out to make the score 30-29 Mustangs.
Running back Kamir Bowen capped the second of the two rallies with a 6-yard run midway through the fourth quarter, giving the Pride a 37-30 lead they would hang on to in the final minutes.
By game's end, Leesville racked up 349 total rushing yards on 68 carries and scored all five of its touchdowns on the ground, including the game-winner. Bowen, who rarely came off the field as he split time at running back and linebacker, led the way with 165 yards and two scores on a game-high 30 carries.
Braxton Berrios, who also split time at running back and defensive back, finished with 93 yards and two scores on 17 carries. By game's end, the Pride ground attack tallied 23 carries of at least 8 yards. Leesville head coach Chad Smothers said the game was exactly what he expected between two teams that both rely on high-powered offense.
"Two good football teams slugged it out tonight, two 11-win teams out here mixing it up," he said.
Early on, the offenses certainly had the edge. Middle Creek scored first less than two minutes into the game, and Leesville was up 21-16 at the halftime break. The Mustangs took their second lead midway through the third quarter when David Salmon (14-of-30, 197 yards, 2 touchdowns) hit running back Devone Johnson from 28 yards out on a swing pass.
Johnson led the Middle Creek offense with 253 offensive yards on just 17 touches, including 167 rushing yards on only 12 carries. Lopez also cracked the century mark, finishing with 106 yards and two scores on 17 carries.
"They have a tremendous offense, we have a tremendous offense, it was going to be which defense could stop the other one enough," Smothers said. "No team was going to throw a shutout."
The biggest play of the night for Leesville's defense came in the fourth quarter when wide receiver Devin Williamson, who spent a lot of the night on the field at corner, stepped in front of a David Salmon pass on 4th and 8 from inside the Pride 15. The interception, Leesville's fourth of the night, stopped a steady drive by the Mustangs that looked like it would put them up by 8 points midway through the frame.
Instead, it was Leesville that scored next, going up 37-30 and hanging on for the final half of the fourth quarter.
"We ask kids to play both ways, and we have kids that buy into that," Smothers said. "Real football players want to be out there when the game is on the line. Devin Williamson doesn't want to be on the sideline when the other team has the ball inside our 20."
Middle Creek head coach Mike Castellano credited Leesville's players for making just a few more big plays, but said he was pleased with his team's effort and ability to bounce back after being down 11 points in the first half.
"We left some plays on the field on both sides of the ball. We try to put our best players in position to make plays, and we want to win and lose with those players," he said. "I can take missed opportunities when our best players have the ball in their hands."
With the win, Leesville (12-0, 7-0 Cap 8) punched its ticket to the third round, where it will face the undefeated Garner Trojans (12-0) for the second consecutive year. Garner beat the Pride 42-21 a season ago and downed Wakefield 76-34 Friday night.
"Garner is a great football program that is having another outstanding year," Smothers said. "We'll get our kids ready to go this week and we'll show up over there on Friday night ready to go."
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