Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 19, 2013
LEXINGTON — Lexington kept shooting itself in the foot.
Eventually, the Jackets ran out of toes.
Despite taking the lead early in the second half, Lexington committed costly penalties and threw an interception from the Salisbury 7 and dropped a 25-21 decision to the Hornets at Philpott Stadium on Friday. In a battle of two winless teams, the Hornets took advantage of Lexington’s mistakes — which seemed to come at the worst possible moments.
“That’s a heartbreaker,” first-year Lexington coach Chuck Henderson. “We let that one slip through our hands.
“We had the opportunities, took the lead in the third quarter.”
Salisbury coach Ryan Crowder, also in his first season, was elated to put a mark in the win column for the first time. “The kids, they battled so daggone hard,” he said. “It’s like I told them before the game, both teams are so hungry for a victory. They’ve gone through the same things we’ve gone through, with a tough schedule.
“I told our kids, the first team that buckles under the adversity is gonna lose.”
Salisbury completely dominated the first 18 minutes of play. The Hornets drove 60 yards on their first possession, aided by a personal foul penalty on Lexington, and Tim Rhodes rumbled in from 8 yards out to give the visitors a 6-0 lead. The Hornets took over two possessions later at the Lexington 44, and the ground game went right back to work.
Willie Clark ripped off a 13-yard run, but Lexington’s defense eventually held and forced a fourth-and-2 from its own 9 at the end of the first quarter. Before the horn sounded, Crowder sent the field goal unit on the field. But with the extra time to think about it, he decided to go for it. It worked, as the Jackets jumped offside to gift-wrap a first-and-goal. Rhodes punched it in on the next play, and Salisbury was cruising 12-0.
It looked like the Hornets would blow the game wide open moments later. After forcing a third consecutive three-and-out, Salisbury took over at the Lexington 46. Six plays later, Clark raced around the right side and headed to the end zone from the 17. But Clark fumbled near the goal line, and Lexington’s TaQuartney Jordan recovered in the end zone to kill the momentum. The Jackets took advantage, putting together their first sustained drive of the evening. Raekwon Byrd was phenomenal in instrumenting the 17-play, 80-yard drive. He scored on a 7-yard run on a read-option keeper up the middle, giving the Jackets new life with 2:25 left in the half.
But Salisbury bounced right back. Riley Myers executed a perfect play-action fake, then bootlegged right and found Jon Mark Petty wide open in the end zone for a 17-yard strike. With 14 seconds left in the half, Salisbury regained the momentum and pushed its lead to 18-7.
But Byrd wasn’t done. On the next play, Daniel Reid Bennett got behind the defense down the right sideline and Byrd connected with him on a 70-yard touchdown pass. Just like that, Lexington trailed 18-14 and carried a load of momentum into the locker room.
That carried over into the third quarter, when Byrd found paydirt from 16 yards out on another read option keeper to give Lexington its first lead at 21-18.
Undaunted, the Hornets came right back. Rhodes, Clark, Myers and Tony Krider all found running room out of the wishbone and churned out a 59-yard march. Clark eventually bulled his way in on a fullback dive, putting Salisbury back in front 25-21 with 3:42 left in the third.
Lexington had its chances over the final 15 minutes. Byrd ripped off runs of 18 and 19 yards to get the Jackets deep in Salisbury territory, but he tried to pass into the end zone on second-and-4 from the Salisbury 7. Dante Gaston stepped in front of the pass and picked it off, completely knocking the wind out of Lexington’s sails.
The Jackets created a pair of turnovers in the fourth quarter — Jordan recovered another fumble after Salisbury drove to the Lexington 30, and Reid-Bennett picked off Myers’ pass at the Lexington 30. But the offense couldn’t get anything going on either ensuing drive, and eventually was forced to punt. The final dagger came in the last minute, with the Jackets trying to get the ball back one last time. The defense forced a fourth-and-3 from the Lexington 13 with 1:03 to play, but a defender jumped offside again to give the Hornets a first down. They ran out the clock from there.
“Neither team really backed up,” Crowder said. “This is just one where we finally got some of the breaks to go for us at the end.”
“That touchdown right there before the half, that gave them a lot of momentum. Their kids came back out fired up and took the lead. But our kids didn’t bend under that, they just fought back.”
Rhodes ran for 99 yards for the Hornets (1-7, 1-1), while Myers ran for 85 yards and passed for 119. Byrd threw for 119 yards for the Jackets, who slipped to 0-8, 0-2. West visits West Davidson on Friday, while Salisbury entertains Thomasville.