LEBANON – You can’t catch what you can’t see. And you can’t hit what you can’t find.
The Lebanon High football squad’s team speed on the flanks is well-documented in these parts. But last night the Cedars added a new wrinkle to their strength by unleashing it from the defensive side of the ball.
On Friday night at Lebanon Alumni Stadium, Elco ran into difficulties trying to match up with Lebanon’s speed, and got burned by the Cedars, 35-14. Five different LHS thoroughbreds found the ‘promised land’, but it was the Cedars’ quickness on the defensive side of the ball that may have given the Raiders the most fits.
Following a an uneven opening, Lebanon picked up the pace around halftime and built a 21-0 lead behind three touchdown passes from senior reserve quarterback Justin Martin. Although the Cedars never allowed their guests to get within two scores, the Raiders simply refused to go quietly.
With the result, Lebanon upped its overall mark to 2-1. The loss was Elco’s second straight, after opening the campaign with an impressive win over Hamburg.
“I think it’s one of the things we’ve really got to use,” said Lebanon head coach Gerry Yonchiuk of his squad’s speed. “The guys can run. There’s a lot of track kids on the field. And the one-two punch of (Khaleem) Gary-Newkirk and Malik Hunter is hard to deal with.
“Defensively, we’re trying to disrupt things, and just run,” Yonchiuk added. “Us playing fast on offense plays well to our defense. Sometimes we’re able to wear teams down.”
“Our game plan was out the window early,” said Elco head coach Bob Miller. “They (the Cedars) were bringing 9,000 guys (defensively) with speed. But we weren’t able to complete things because of mental mistakes.
Following 21 minutes of entertaining but scoreless football in the first half, the Cedars broke through for two touchdowns in the final 2:50 of the second quarter. The explosion was touched off by Luke Eisenhour, who accepted a middle screen pass from Martin, weaved his way through traffic and turned it into a 64-yard scoring play.
And then with the Cedars exploiting an apparent mismatch with senior end Nick Negron, Martin found him in the right corner of the end zone, on a fourth-down-and-ten snap from the 16-yard-line, that put LHS ahead 14-0 seven seconds before the break.
The Cedars finished off the flurry when they drove the the second-half kickoff 61 yards in six plays to get Martin’s 21-yard collaboration with Omel Francois. At that point it was 21-0, and the Raiders never fully recovered.
“He’s doing a nice job,” said Yonchiuk of Martin, who has filled in admirably for injured starter Cody Kissinger. “It’s week-to-week with Cody. I don’t know what we’re going to do. But it’ll be nice to have depth at that position. They’ll continue to compete.
“He was their back-up?,” said Miller of Martin. “I didn’t know he was their back-up quarterback. He’s pretty good. He did very well. He managed the game very well.”
Elco finally broke through with 8:13 left in the third quarter when quarterback Jeff Martin spotted Dustin Miller behind the LHS secondary and hit him with a 72-yard bomb. But Lebanon answered back five minutes later, converting a fumble into a Hunter ten-yard scamper that made it 28-7.
“I thought we played much better tonight,” said Yonchiuk. “I was pleased. Tonight we played offense, and the defense was the same. We have a lot of team speed and we ran to the football well. Field position is so big, and we made a renewed commitment to our special teams.
“Going into it, we knew we could run the football,” Yonchiuk added. “The balance makes it more difficult to prepare for. Khaleem is so quick. He hits the hole, he spins and he’s gone.”
“The kids fight. They do,” Miller continued. “They come out of the locker room ready to go. There are positives.”
The Raiders looked like they might make a game of it when D. Miller hauled in a 31-yard scoring strike from wildcat quarterback Kyle Knight on the first snap of the final quarter. But Lebanon put the outcome to rest when Gary-Newkirk beat the Elco defense in an 11-yard sprint to the right pylon, with 6:59 to go, to cap a ten-run possession.
“These guys know how to win, if everyone does their job,” said Yonchiuk. “We don’t lean on one guy. It’s a team effort.
“No, they (the Cedars) took us out of our game plan,” said Miller. “They’re a good defensive team. We didn’t underestimate them at all. Mental mistakes, that’s it.”
With Gary-Newkirk piling up 224 yards on 27 carries, the Lebanon offense churned out 269 yards on the ground. Martin was efficiently spectacular going 13-for-24 for 224 yards, with no interceptions and no sacks.
“I was pleased,” said Yonchiuk. “I just wanted some consistency. I like the resiliency with these guys.
“Elco’s a young scrappy group,” Yonchiuk added. “I didn’t feel like it was ever over.”
“If our kids get our dreams beyond Elco, we’ll be alright,” said Miller. “I see a good future. We have three seniors, that’s it. We can be alright.”
Lebanon Sports Buzz
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