LBMS ends drought, wins SMAC title
BY CLIFF SMELLEY
A game seemingly in control came down to the final seconds, with Willie Newsome and Trevor Rogers combining to tackle a Williston running back on the 1-yard line during a two-point conversion attempt to preserve a lead and eventually give the Lake Butler Middle School football team a 22-20 win in the Suwannee Middle School Athletic Conference championship game on Oct. 21 in Williston.
It was the first SMAC title for the Tigers since 2011.
Head coach Lamar Waters said it was good to see this year’s eighth-graders rewarded with a trophy after a rough couple of seasons in 2012 and 2013.
“They had the opportunity to show people they could bring back a championship to Union County,” Waters said.
The Tigers (7-1) earned the championship by avenging an earlier 28-14 loss to Williston—a game that saw Lake Butler fumble the ball nine times, make mistakes in pass coverage and commit other self-inflicted mistakes, Waters said.
Waters said the players did a good job of watching video of that game, understanding what they did wrong and working to correct those mistakes. They entered the rematch in the SMAC title game with one purpose—to win.
“All the credit goes to the young men,” Waters said.
Lake Butler jumped out to an 8-0 lead, thanks to a reception by tight end Josh Griffis. Williston, though, took advantage of a long kickoff return and a penalty on the Tigers, which had the host team begin the ensuing series on the Lake Butler 30-yard line. Williston would score, but a failed two-point conversion left the Tigers on top by a score of 8-6.
Runs by Newsome, Rogers and Phillip Harris helped the Tigers march downfield and get a score before halftime, with a Harris touchdown run putting Lake Butler up 14-6.
The Tigers opened the second half with a different look offensively, utilizing an unbalanced, eight-man line to move up and down the field, Waters said. This “nasty” formation resulted in another touchdown—a run by Newsome.
Williston was a little out of sorts offensively. The Tigers were hurt by the “waggle” in the teams’ first meeting, the result being that Lake Butler worked for three weeks on the “waggle,” Waters said.
After recovering a fumble, Williston lined up in a different offense, putting its quarterback out wide, while a running back took the snaps. It was a difficult matchup for the Tigers, with Williston now lining up three players of at least 6 feet on the outside.
“That puts a lot of stress on you defensively,” Waters said.
Williston scored with 1:13 to play, with a two-point conversion making the score 22-14. Williston attempted an onside kick, which bounced off the leg of one of the Lake Butler players and back into the hands of a Williston player. The eventual result was another touchdown, with the all-important two-point conversion to follow.
Waters said the Tigers were hurting, with linebacker Dalton Flanders out with a torn hamstring and linebacker Chesley Bivins hobbled some by a leg injury.
Fortunately for the Tigers, when Williston ran its play for the two-point conversion, it went away from the side of the field that had Bivins, a backup linebacker and the team’s smallest cornerback. Waters said he liked his team’s chances with Williston running a play toward Rogers, who did just enough to hold the running back up until Newsome arrived to help finish the play off.
Williston’s ensuing onside-kick attempt went out of bounds, capping what at one point in the season seemed improbable. Waters said Williston had been scoring an average of 50 points in most games, and other SMAC coaches didn’t give the Tigers much of a chance. Waters himself admitted Williston poses quite the matchup challenge.
“The guys just believed,” he said of his players.
Lake Butler opened this season 4-0 with wins over Mebane, Fort White, P.K. Yonge and Ruth Rains by a combined score of 86-26. After the 28-14 loss to Williston, the Tigers defeated High Springs 36-0 and Keystone Heights 46-0.
Waters and the rest of the coaching staff wish to express their thanks to all who supported the team—school administrators, parents and the community at large.
“The community just does such a great job supporting all of our athletic programs,” Waters said.