By Mac McLeod,
Dating back to 2010, when they have played, White County has defeated Livingston Academy only once, and since 2014, the Warriors have only scored a single touchdown. So it came as a surprise last Friday night when the Wildcats had to produce a strong second half to turn a big Senior Night celebration into a win and maintain their perfect 8-0 record.
“It wasn’t pretty at all,” LA head coach Bruce Lamb told his squad after the come-from-behind 27-12 victory that kept the Wildcats with a perfect record. “I knew we were due a letdown somewhere, and it came tonight, but you did what you have done all season, bowed up and won. That’s what you are supposed to do, and you did it.
“Now, next week is an off week, so I don’t want to see any of you, hear from you on the phone or get a text. Take the week off, you’ve deserved it, but when you get back, be ready to travel to Jamestown and take on York. I don’t have to tell any of you what that game is all about. It’s their ‘Super Bowl’, and regardless of what you’ve heard about them this year, believe me, they will be ready for us.”
The coach could have easily said: “I’m sure glad that’s over with,” and left it at that.
When things started Friday night in what was scheduled to be the final regular season game in Tom Davis Stadium as a new stadium is in the offing, the 13 seniors on this year’s Wildcat team were honored with their parents in what to some was a happy night and for others a sad situation.
“We’ve followed these seniors since they were playing Outlaw ball and it’s kinda sad to think this is their last season together,” one grandparent explained. “We need to thank them for giving us so many wonderful memories.”
That final part was extremely accurate as over the years, the seniors have been a big part in the success at the Outlaw level, extremely strong in the middle school, and after some bumpy years, becoming the first team in Livingston Academy history to win its first seven games.
They were looking to make the magic number “eight”.
But things didn’t start out as planned. Prior to the start of this season, the Warriors had lost 26 straight games, but had shown signs of improvement, bringing a 4-2 mark to LA Friday. It didn’t take long to show the big crowd on both sides of the stadium that this was a “new day”.
Livingston had the ball first, and after failing to make a first down on fourth and three, near midfield, the visitors marched 49 yards in only six plays to take a 6-0 lead. The point-after try failed.
The Warrior defense then dug in and forced Joseph Dees to punt, and his 49-yarder put the visitors at their own 20. Three plays later, Raven Carpenter intercepted a pass and gave the Cats the ball deep in Warrior territory, the White County 26.
Carpenter then showed the crowd that not only the pros can catch a ball one handed. In the right corner of the endzone, he reached out, pulled in a Will McDonald throw with one hand, and finally, gave the Wildcat side of the field something to cheer about.
Tee Beaty hit his first of four point-after tries and LA led by one, 7-6, and that’s how the first quarter would end.
Not much ventured and not much more gained. And it didn’t stop there.
With 4:45 left in the half, McDonald would fumble the ball and White County would be back on offense at their nine. A 47-yard run right through the middle of the Livingston defense gave the Warriors the ball near mid-field, and with 20 ticks left on the clock, senior Will Cheek nailed an impressive 47-yard field goal that put his team on top 9-7. Cheek would hit an almost identical field goal with no time left in the half to give White County a stunning 12-7 halftime lead.
“It didn’t look good at that point,” defensive linebacker Nate Carwile explained after the game. “It just didn’t seem like we had our heart in it almost the entire first half, but we made an ‘attitude adjustment’ at half time and played much better, offensively and defensively, in the second half. That’s one of the strong points of this team – we can when we have to.”
No doubt the Cats “had to” heading to the second half, and they did. Neither team scored in the quick third quarter, but on the third play of the final frame, Kaleb Robinson ripped right up the middle for 8 yards and the go-ahead score for the Wildcats, 13-12.
After a White County punt on the next series, McDonald found Aubrey Hollars open in the endzone for six more and rounded out the night with a “sealer”, hitting Wesley Smith racing down the left sideline with a 49-yard scoring beauty that has become sort of a trademark play for the pair. Beaty’s kick made it 27-12, and for practical purposes, the outcome was no longer in doubt.
“They played me very tight all night,” Smith would explain after the game, “but Will called the play and I got behind the defender and Will threw it perfectly. That was it.”
“You have to give them (White County) credit,” Hollars stated. “They came in here knowing what they had to do, and for the first half, they did it. They tackled very good and covered our receiver good almost all night. I thought we came back strong in the second half, which is something we can do and did. Good game.”
One of the keys to the win was the hard running of Robinson. Last week he produced 141 yards on the ground against DeKalb County and came back this week with 136 more. With Robinson now more than just an occasional runner, the Wildcats can boast a very balanced attack. On the night, Livingston ran for 166 yards and passed for 183 more.
“That’s big,” McDonald explained. “Early in the season, we were mainly a passing team, but with Robinson running so well, defenses have to give us respect. We’re still passing a lot, but with the running option, it is giving me more time to find the receivers and connecting. It’s a big deal.”
In addition to Robinson’s rushing yardage, Hollars carried the ball twice for 25 more and McDonald added 7. Hollars continues to be hot in the receiving department, leading the way Friday with 12 receptions for 75 yards and one touchdown. Smith had only 4 receptions, but one was a 49-yard score. He ended the night with 69 receiving yards. Carpenter caught 2 for 31 yards and a score, while Bryer Mosley had 2 catches for 2 yards.
Defensively, Carpenter and Wesley Smith each had one interception while Beaty had a good night kicking, hitting four point-after attempts and kicking three kickoffs into the endzone for no return yardage.
Cole Spears led the team in tackles with 7 while Dexter Wright and Dusty Parrish were close behind with 6 each. Mosley and Westyn Clouse each had 5, Nate Neely, Carwile, and Carson Smith each had 3 while Wesley Smith, Hollars, Carpenter, and Austin Reeder each added 2.
Livingston will take the week off then return to action at York Institute on October 25.
17 1st downs 10
169 Yds. Rushing 92
183 Yds. Passing 86
349 Total Yards 178
24/20 Pass A/C 17/9
2 Passes INT by 0
1 Fumbles lost 0
2/44 Punts /Avg. 5/35
78 Yds. Pent. 70
Score by quarters:
LA – 7 0 0 20 – 27
WC – 6 6 0 0 – 12