Sept. 21, 2017 was a red-letter day in LAMP athletics.
The Golden Tigers held their first-ever athletic event in their own facility as they played host to Catholic in a volleyball game on Thursday night. And to cap off the event, LAMP’s players made it count by beating the Knights 25-23, 17-25, 21-25, 25-14 and 15-13, touching off a wild celebration among their students.
“We had a great crowd,” first-year LAMP coach Dee Wilson said, who referred to her boisterous group of supporters as “loud and proud LAMPers. We couldn’t have had better support on our first night here. The whole school was anticipating this opening night so that was big for us.”
The school has never had its own athletic facilities. The magnet school started in 1984 on the upper floor of Lanier High School and finally moved to its own facility – the former Loveless Elementary School on West Jeff Davis Street – in 1999. The following year, the school started athletics, borrowing the Loveless Community Center gym from the city for basketball and volleyball while practicing baseball and softball in a vacant lot next to the school, a lot on Oak Street that once was occupied by houses and had no fences for boundaries and trees that occupied center field.
The school building was condemned in 2015 and LAMP moved into the vacant Houston Hill Junior High building on Hall Street while continuing to practice athletics – and play volleyball and basketball — on West Jeff Davis.
Macon East Academy entered region play in early September with just two touchdowns in two games, wondering where their rejuvenated offense had mysteriously vanished.
Two weeks – and 96 points – later, the Knights have found new confidence with their best start (3-1) in five years after rolling past Evangel Christian Academy 49-20 on Friday night.
And while the rushing attack had 216 yards on just 15 carries in the first half, it was the passing attack that came up with the points as Logan Goree scored on Macon East quarterback Tucker Neven’s first two completions to help his team to a 21-0 lead.
“He had a great night tonight,” Macon East coach Glynn Lott said. “He’s figured out how to run routes. He’s never played before. I’ve challenged them to get better every week and I think we have.”
The post player turned football player caught a fourth-and-goal pass from the Evangel 6 for the game’s first points, then ran the same slant on the first play of the second quarter for a 25-yard scoring reception.
“It is starting to come through,” Goree said. “They’re throwing the ball to me more, they’re trusting me more. That’s a good thing, too.”
Suddenly, the team that struggled to a 6-0 win over Hooper and a 13-6 loss to Crenshaw has found some rhythm, pounding a pair of overmatched opponents in beating Coosa Valley 47-7 and Evangel.
“We talked about at the beginning of the year how many weapons we thought we had,” Lott said. “It just didn’t click the first couple of weeks. We seemed off balance. It’s mentality thing. We’ve lost so much the past couple of years. That’s the hardest part, to convince them when they walk out here they can win. I think that’s been the difference.”
Evangel (0-5) can certainly relate to the challenge of losing their best defensive player and top rusher, Xavier Williams, in the week leading up the game, making a rebuilding effort even more desperate. While Goree came up with the big scoring plays, it was the running of Colin Harris and Mike Murry that made the difference as Harris had 91 yards on three carries and Murry had 111 and two touchdowns on seven rushes, all in the first half.
“We were thinking a little more passing on their side, so we geared up for that,” Evangel coach Andy Whatley said. “They just gouged us on the run. Those two slants did it (at the beginning) and then when we finally said let’s get back to the line and stop their run, they have momentum and the wheels are falling off.”
Murry’s 57-yard sprint to the end zone with 14 seconds left put the finishing touches on a 42-6 halftime lead in which Macon East had 275 total yards while Evangel had just one first down and minus 1 yard in total offense.
“Our line was terrible the first couple of weeks and I’m the line coach,” Lott said. “We went back and put our hands on the ground instead of standing up and doing some things we weren’t very good at. They’ve gotten better and we’ve been able to get the ball in a lot of people’s hands. When you do that, it makes your line better because (opponents) don’t know whether we’re going to run it or throw it and that gives us a little bit of an advantage we need up front.”
The reserves played virtually the entire second half with a running clock. Parker Whittle scored on a 24-yard run on Macon East’s first play of the second half for a 49-6 lead. Jaden Gardener and Sam Allen scored touchdowns for the Lions in the second half.
“At halftime, I told our coaches that from here on out you can’t buy that kind of practice because when you don’t have a lot of kids you can’t practice (game-like situations),” Whatley said. “Let’s get better, let’s establish and learn and get stuff on film, but then with a running clock we didn’t have a lot of time to establish and then everybody started putting in their ‘twos.’”
Evangel travels to Luverne to play Crenshaw Christian this week before getting a much-needed week off. Macon East returns home to open a three-game homestand against Springwood for homecoming on Friday.
“It’ll be a big challenge for us to play them at home for homecoming,” Lott said. “That’s what I just told them (is) our job is to win the game, not to win the float contest.”
Last year, the Knights went through Coosa Valley, Evangel and Springwood with just one touchdown, including a shutout loss at Springwood. This year’s squad, however, is a more confident bunch.
“We’ve improved a lot,” Goree said, “but we’re going to have to focus on this week instead of all the stuff for homecoming. If we focus, I think we can beat them.”
Few people thought Trinity would beat Catholic last Friday night. And in the early going it looked Catholic would not disappoint the prognosticators. But things changed dramatically and in a big way late in the first quarter that eventually led to a 32-22 victory for Trinity.
Trapped on their own 2 yard line after the opening kickoff, Catholic tackled the Trinity ball carrier in the end zone for a safety and led 2-0 after only 17 seconds ticked off the clock. Catholic marched to the end zone in 8 plays after the Trinity kick. Kamryn Jackson, who also had 108 yards receiving, swept right end, and with more than 8 minutes left in the opening quarter the Knights led 9-0. “They got the safety and a few plays later we are down 9-0 and we had run only one play from scrimmage. I’m glad the kids didn’t panic. I thought I was going to,” Trinity coach Barry Loyal said. “Then things turned around.”
Trinity’s Jackson Davis intercepted a pass and the Wildcats stopped Catholic when the Knights were threatening for the second time. After that it was all downhill for the Wildcats.
Trinity drove down the field, and with spectacular catches by Tyler Britton and Bryce Kelly to keep the drive alive, the Wildcats found the end zone shortly before the end of the opening quarter. Kelly had the honor of rushing for the first Wildcats score. After the teams swapped punts Catholic found itself pinned deep. A poor snap forced the Knights punter to attempt the first of two left footed punts while on the run. The poor punt gave Trinity the ball deep in Knights territory and a few plays later Luke Hufham did a dance on his toes in the corner of the end zone after catching a pass from Trace Bright. With that the Wildcats took the lead once and for all.
Bright and Hufham combined again on the next Trinity possession. Hufham was barely open for the scrambling Bright but caught his pass on the Wildcats sideline. Hufham took a step around and saw nothing but the grass of Boykin field ahead of him. “I got to give Trace the credit. He found the way to get the pass of. When I turned around and didn’t see anybody. I was surprised,” Hufham said. Bright completed 9 of 21 passes for 161 yards.
Disaster hit the Knights on their next possession. Another poor snap forced the punter to try and kick on the run, and for the second time, left footed. The punt was blocked in the end zone and recovered by Nexton Marshall for the touchdown. “I thought he may try to kick it even though he did it left footed because he is a rugby style kicker. It was on my side of the field so I was able to get there it time to block it,” Jackson Davis said. Davis had a big night with 7 tackles, the blocked punt he interception. Max Williams scored a 2-point conversion on a trick play to give the Wildcats a 29-9 point lead at halftime. “We have been practicing that play since August,” Williams said. “It is actually designed to run straight ahead but I saw plenty of room on the outside so that’s where I went.”
The Knights scored on the first play from scrimmage in the second half just like they did in the first half. The difference was that Catholic actually had possession when Tyler Price broke free on a 45 yard run to the end zone to make the score 29-16.Price finished the night with 131 yards.
It appeared that the Knights were making a comeback and momentum swing their way. Catholic made its way to the Trinity 36 yard line. Hunter Ferrall’s pass was deflected and Hufham was there with open arms for the interception. “I think Luke’s interception was the big turning point. They were making a comeback and that interrupted their effort,” Loyal said.
A long drive by Trinity after the interception afforded McKay Taylor the opportunity to boot a 22 yard field goal to make the score 32-16. Catholic scored late in the game but after penalties and turnovers it was too little too late. “We didn’t play good enough to beat anybody,” Catholic coach Aubrey Blackwell said. “We had too mistakes and too many turnovers. We had our chances. Our defense gave us chance with a good effort in the second half but we just didn’t get it done.”
For the Catholic defense, Charlie Ryan had 10 tackles and Cole Fauchex had 8 tackles.
For the Wildcats on defense Will Eagerton had 15 tackles with a pair of sacks. Caleb Kreitz had 13 tackles, 2 sacks and a fumble recovery. Bracken Osmer notched 8 tackles and Hampton Bopp recovered a fumble.
It was Loyal’s first win at home as head coach of the Wildcats. “It’s great that we can play on our field like this and win. We made progress each week and we played several good football teams. Our kids were not at their best last week and they were determined not to lose again,” Loyal said. “Our kids overcame a lot of adversity tonight.”
Trinity will travel a few miles next week to take on a vastly improved Alabama Christian team in what will now be the biggest area game to date in the local 4A region. Trinity is now 2-2 and 1-1 in the area. Catholic is 3-1 and 1-1 in the area. The Knights are off next week.