By Mac McLeod
Carson Smith lived in Alpine but he did not get a change of address from the Monterey area so before the season started, Livingston Academy head coach Bruce Lamb had to plead his case before the TSSAA who had ruled Smith ineligible to play at LA this season.
Lamb lost his case in the first try, but later the TSSAA reversed their decision and Smith, a junior offensive and defensive lineman, earned a spot on the Wildcats’ starting squad. Had he had to stay at Monterey, he would have been 6-0, but he’s happy at Livingston, where’s he also 6-0, and he has no regrets.
“I love playing here,” the big junior lineman beamed after he and his teammates rolled over Smith County 38-13 Friday night. “I love everything about LA, the players, the coaches, the fans, everything, and this is so much fun. This team has gotten better and better each week and we can’t wait for the next week. I’m just proud to be a part of it.”
“He’s so easy to coach,” Lamb points out. “He’s very disciplined, he follows instructions, he’s very mobile, quick, and has a great nose for the ball, plus he’s a junior, so he’ll be back next year.”
Smith, Bailey Johnson, Donnie Phillips, Ethan Rumancik, and Cole Spears make up the heart of the interior offensive line and, according to Johnson, “have learned to communicate with each other so well, we are really working as a well-oiled machine. We really believe that with the offense we have, if we, the line, do our job, Will (McDonald) will find us a touchdown somewhere on every play.”
And that’s about what happened in Carthage Friday night in a non-region game between the Wildcats and the Owls. For years Livingston would travel to Smith County, where two of its best teams ever, the ‘04 and ‘05 state champs, were and come home losers. Lately, it’s been different, but beating the Owls is still an accomplishment.
“I can remember coming down here since I was seven years old,” LA record breaking quarterback McDonald commented, “and it never gets old coming here and winning. I thought we got out there and took care of business early and actually, all the credit goes to the offensive line and my receivers. My biggest job was trying to decide who to throw to. They were all open and I had a lot of time to decide.”
“I hate having to come down here in this hole,” one LA fan laughed before Friday’s game. “It makes you want to beat them if for no other reason.”
There were several other ‘reasons’ and from the opening kickoff, the Cats had little trouble rolling to their sixth straight win against no losses and the best start since the 2012 season. Before the night would end, senior Wesley Smith would break the all time receiving yardage record held by one of his coaches, Matthan Houser. Early in the contest, Smith would haul in a McDonald pass that would send him past Houser at 2,065 yards. He would finish the night at 2,130. His 127th catch of his career would move him past second place Mark Hill in that department and only 38 behind leader Matt Swallows.
Livingston set the game pattern early, taking the opening kickoff and going 62 yards on seven plays for the score. McDonald and his receiver covered most of the territory through the air and Kaleb Robinson would go the final 15 yards on the ground. Tee Beaty, as he would all night, kicked the extra point.
The other part of the pattern was the LA defense and, as it would do throughout the entire night, would hold the Owls to three plays then force a punt. In the first half, the home team would make only one first down and end up with minus eight yards on the ground. They did, however, score a touchdown late in the half set up by a 90-yard kick off return.
At the half, LA led 31-7, and early in the second half, Lamb would pull his starters and go with youth looking ahead to next season.
“We were pretty much in control so it was time to give the other players a chance to gain some experience,” Lamb explained. “The players out there in the second half are going to be our future and we need to do all we can to get them game experience. Practice is one thing, but game experience is the real deal.”
In the first half, the Cats scored on Robinson’s run then a 38-yard Beaty field goal. Robinson would go in from four yards out later to score then Aubrey Hollars would pull in a 10 yard strike from McDonald to move LA ahead, 24-0. Smith would take a beautiful over the shoulder pass from McDonald in the end zone for the 31-7 halftime lead then Hollars would cap another outstanding night with a 30 yard catch over the middle then fight for the final five yards and the score.
On the night, Hollars would catch 8 passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns. Smith would add 112 yards with six catches and one touchdown. On the ground, Robinson would have the best night of his career so far with 21 carries for 127 and two touchdowns. Kyle Kernell would carry 6 times in the second half with Lochlan Hammock getting two running attempts and Nathan Cowgill would quarterback almost the entire second half.
“I really enjoyed that,” Cowgill stated. “The experience is great and playing behind the first team line was really fun.”
Defensively, there actually wasn’t a lot of tackling since Smith County’s routine was run one or two plays, pass the other, then punt. Smith and Nate Carwile each recorded six stops, Dexter Wright had five, and Xander Cantrell had three including a TD saving stop at the LA five. Jordan Brown also had three tackles, as did Westyn Clouse and Thomas Penticuff. Wesley Smith had two as did Austin Reeder and Robert Robinson while Hollars, Logan Johnson, Jon Storie, and Robinson were all credited with at least one tackle.
Livingston will return home this week after three weeks on the road to take on region foe DeKalb in what is expected to be a good region struggle. The Tigers will bring a 1-0 region mark and an overall record of 3-3 to the game
16 1st downs 7
122 Yds Rushing 53
241 Yds Passing 60
363 Total Yds 113
18/14 Pass Att/Comp 15/4
0 Pass INT by 0
0 fumbles lost 0
2/38 Punts/Avg. 5/37
50 Yds Pent 60
Score by quarters:
SC---0 7 0 6---13