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Lexington’s forced turnovers, punts hand Salisbury tough loss

By Mike Duprez
Lexington Dispatch

All the positive aspects of Lexington’s homecoming were on display Friday night at Philpott Memorial Stadium before a huge crowd.

What the Yellow Jackets did on the field was mostly unattractive.

Except for the outcome.

Daniel Reid-Bennett tossed a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jerarmony Charles in the third quarter for the go-ahead touchdown and Lexington held on for a gritty 17-14 win over Central Carolina Conference rival Salisbury despite getting only three first downs after the opening quarter.

“It was beautiful,” said Lexington coach Chuck Henderson, who gave a brief but passionate speech to his players after the game.

Lexington, 5-2 overall, improved to 1-1 and stayed in the conference race. A loss would have virtually eliminated the Jackets, who fell 18-13 to North Rowan last Thursday.

On a night when Salisbury (2-6 overall, 0-2) dominated possession with its flexbone attack and held Lexington to 183 yards, the Jackets had to find other ways to win. They did, by forcing four turnovers and winning the field position battle thanks to Adrian Craven averaging 40.4 yards on five punts.

It took one of those turnovers to turn the tide for Lexington since the Jackets didn’t have the ball very much in the second half.

Josh Medley pounced on a fumbled snap exchange and Lexington gained possession at the Salisbury 25 with 7:49 left in the third quarter. Four plays later, Reid-Bennett found Charles in the right flat and the Jacket receiver scooted into the end zone, giving Lexington the lead. Arun Kelly-Rajun’s extra point kick gave Lexington its three-point lead.

From there, it was up to Lexington’s defense and special teams to hold down the fort since the playmakers were held in check by the Hornets. Craven’s punting kept forcing Salisbury to grind out long marches.

“We practiced a lot after the North (Davidson) game, when I shanked a couple of them,” Craven said. “I kept my head up and worked hard. My blockers gave me protection and got the ball where it needed to be.”

It almost wasn’t enough.

After taking possession at the 5 early in the fourth quarter following a 42-yard punt by Craven, Salisbury held the ball for the next eight minutes and gave the Jackets plenty of anxious moments. A key play came when sophomore linebacker Dylan Tucker stuffed workhorse running back Antwond Glenn for no gain on third-and-five from the Lexington 30 with less than three minutes left.

“We just kept feeding off our team and the crowd,” Tucker said. “Keeping our heads up, looking for a win. We’ve been practicing hard and I really believe in our defense.”

Victory seemed assured when Cheven Hargrave intercepted Harrison Smith’s pass and returned it 32 yards to the Salisbury 45. Part of that return was nullified by a holding penalty and Reid-Bennett promptly fumbled, giving Salisbury an unexpected final chance.

The Hornets went with star linebacker D.J. Alexander at quarterback to throw home run balls. Victory was finally secure for Lexington when Craven intercepted a deep ball at the Jackets’ 10 with 38 seconds left.

“I kept in my backpedal and tried to bait him to throw the ball to the receiver,” Craven said. “Just went up the best I could to try and come down with the ball.”

It left the Hornets smarting.

“They made a great play,” said Salisbury coach Ryan Crowder. “We were lucky to get another chance when they fumbled. But we’ve got to take advantage of those situations. We had three turnovers (actually it was four) and they had one. We lost the turnover battle.”

Lexington came out like gangbusters in the first quarter, scoring on its first two possessions in the first quarter. Kelly-Rajun kicked a 24-yard field goal and Sakeem McIntosh capped a short 35-yard drive with a 3-yard TD run. The Jackets got great field position when a Will Steinman punt went just 24 yards.

After that, the Hornets owned the second quarter.

Wood, who carried the ball 32 times for 124, scored on a pair of 1-yard runs as the Hornets took a 14-10 lead into halftime.

Lexington visits West Davidson next Friday.

Notes: Vichy Prom recovered a fumble for Lexington. … Salisbury held a 20-8 edge in first downs. … The Hornets host Thomasville next Friday.

Mike Duprez can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 218 or mike.duprez@the-dispatch.com. Follow Mike on Twitter@LexDispatch_md

 

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