By Mac McLeod,
At the outset of the 2019 season, most Livingston Academy fans would have settled for a 6-1 record at best after the initial seven games. They almost could envision a 5-2 mark, but no player on that team was going to settle for anything less than 7-0.
“We had no doubts we could be undefeated at this point of the season,” LA senior wide receiver Aubrey Hollars explained Friday night. “This group has been together so long and we have gotten better and better as the season moves along. Right now, we’re going for a perfect season and believe we can do it.”
There are three remaining regular season games, White County, York, and Macon, and from all indications, the Wildcats could post a perfect 10-0 record for the first time in the school’s history.
Friday night at home with region foe DeKalb County, the Cats rolled their record to a perfect 7-0, the first time in school’s history they have gotten off to that start. More importantly for LA is the fact it needs only one more win, a victory over Macon, to play all its playoff games at home.
“That’s what we want to do,” head coach Bruce Lamb told his players after Friday’s 31-0 win over DeKalb in a game that almost put the big homecoming crowd to sleep in the first half and had them on their feet almost the entire second half.
“We didn’t play all that well tonight,” senior quarterback Will McDonald admitted. “I didn’t settle in early, they put a lot of pressure on our receivers and me. They covered Wesley (Smith) well, and in the first half, we struggled to get moving. In the second half, Kaleb (Robinson) really confused them with his running and it kinda smoothed out and went well. Mixing up our offense really confused them, and what can you say about our defense? Our defense kept us in the game in that first half, and the offensive line really opened some big holes for Kaleb to run through.
“When it was all said and done, it was a pretty good overall effort,” McDonald concluded.
And while McDonald and the offense were putting 31 points on the board, defensive lineman Dusty Parrish was having a fun night staying in the face of the DeKalb quarterback. On the night, Parrish would only be credited with 4 tackles, but he forced the quarterback out of the pocket on almost every play.
“That was why you play football,” Parrish smiled. “I could get by that guard and get to the quarterback on almost every play. His face is imprinted in my mind. I bet my mine is in his too.”
And for Robinson, a junior, his 142 yards on the ground and three touchdowns were by far the best game of his career. He kept the defense honest all night as DeKalb tried to outguess McDonald on whether he was going to throw or hand off to him.
“That was the big factor tonight,” McDonald added. “They couldn’t out guess us, especially in the second half.
Robinson blew right up the middle from 22 yards out in the first period to give Livingston a 6-0 lead after struggling earlier in the quarter. Tee Beaty was perfect on the night with point-after conversions and LA took a 7-0- lead.
In the early goings of the second quarter, the Cats still seemed a bit shaky, but an interception by Wesley Smith and a 19-yard field goal by Beaty would get the Wildcats to the dressing room at the intermission leading 10-0.
Things were much different in the second half.
Robinson showed his quickness when he raced around the left corner for his third score of the night behind big blocks from Parrish and Wesley Smith then connected with Smith on the next possession with an outstanding running throw for a 7-yard strike. Robinson would cap the night’s scoring in the fourth frame with a hard fought 4-yard struggle right up the middle.
While the offense put the points on the board, LA’s defense allowed the visitors only 50 yards on the ground and 88 through the air, and LA punter Joseph Dees nailed a 64-yard punt early in the game that put the Tigers in a deep hole that eventually resulted in the game’s first touchdown then added a second later for a 51-yard punting average.
“We are having new players step up every week, and this one is especially good,” Lamb told his players at midfield after the game. “Kaleb (Robinson), son, you had a great game and your running really mixed well with our passing. Great job. And Dexter Wright, that was the best game for you so far this year. Everybody stepped up tonight, and although it wasn’t all that pretty, it was a win, the most wins in LA history to start a season, seven.
“Now look around this place, because it’s going to be torn down and a new stadium will be built. You will be the last team to play in this stadium, and that will stay with you for the rest of your lives. We got one more regular season game here, then playoffs. As long as we keep winning, we will keep playing here.”
When asked about his “best” game, junior linebacker Wright laughed and added: “I’m saving my best game for my uncle at York.”
Wright’s uncle, Derwin, is the head coach at York Institute.
Wright would pace the Cats with 7 tackles with Hollars close behind with 6. Cole Spears would have 5, Nate Neely and Parrish 4. Nate Carwile and Raven Carpenter were credited with 3 each, while Austin Reeder, Carson Smith, Wesley Smith, Bryer Mosley, and Donnie Phillips each had two. Westyn Clouse, Kyle Kernell, and Robinson were credited with one each.
Mosley had two deflected passes, one picture perfect, on a long DeKalb pass that led to a 4th down punt.
Livingston Academy will host White County this week in a non-region encounter, then go on the road for the final two regular season games, first at York then the big region finale at Macon County.
17 1st downs 5
154 Yds. Rushing 50
159 Yds. Passing 88
335 Total Yards 138
28/16 Pass A/C 20/11
1 Passes INT by 0
0 Fumbles lost 0
2/51 Punts /Avg. 7/26
35 Yds. Pent. 18
Score by quarters:
LA – 7 3 14 7 – 31
DHS – 0 0 0 0 – 0