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Lyerly’s incredible debut tarnished by loss

STATESVILLE – Many things that weren’t supposed to happen did in the first three games for Davie’s varsity football team. All the things that were supposed to happen didn’t in the last two games.

Friday’s nonconference game at South Iredell could have gone worse for Davie – it trailed by 17 and then 18 points before the War Eagles rallied within five – but not much worse. They lost 31-28 to the 2-3 Vikings. It was a rather shocking development after South was thoroughly dismantled by Lake Norman (49-21) and Alexander Central (48-7) the previous two weeks.

The War Eagles (3-2) beat the heck out of themselves with penalties (11 for 106 yards, compared to South’s 3-27). It’s the first time since 1982 they’ve seen a high-flying 3-0 start crumble to 3-2.

The War Eagles were a no-show in the first quarter, trailing 10-0 in the first 2:39 and digging a 17-0 hole before the game was nine minutes old.

Davie coach Tim Devericks said: “Maybe that’s on me, but the last two weeks we’ve had to battle uphill from the get-go. And a battle uphill is difficult against the schedule we play.”

The loss tarnished an incredible varsity debut for sophomore running back DeVonte Lyerly, who was pulled up from JV due to injuries to Josh Robinson and Tate Carney. He tried to save the day with 217 rushing yards.

In Davie’s disastrous first quarter, South’s Darius Smyre broke three tackles and took the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown. Davie quarterback Nate Hampton was intercepted on Davie’s first play from scrimmage. That set up the first of three field goals by Cody Hazleton, who was good from 30 yards after South moved 22 yards following the pick.

Down 10-0, Davie was on the move, but a high snap on third-and-3 from the South 40 forced it to punt. The snap to punter Beaven Arey was low. He went to a knee to field it, so he was ruled down at the Davie 41, a loss of 16 yards.

After South’s offense stalled at the Davie 14, it lined up for a 31-yard field goal. South coach Scott Miller ordered a fake. Holder Garrett Page stood up and lobbed a pass. Cullen Smith, who was lined up on the left side to block, ran by the defense to catch the TD, making Miller look like a genius and putting Davie in the 17-0 hole.

Miller: “They came real hard on that first extra point, so I told the guys. The only two that knew I was doing it was the holder and the guy who caught the ball. I told them to look at me. I gave them a quick little hand signal because it looked like they were coming real hard to try to block it.”

At halftime, Lyerly was responsible for 101 of Davie’s 124 yards … and he did all that basically in the second quarter. He got his first touch on the third-to-last play of the first quarter. He rumbled for 59 yards on seven straight carries to put Davie at the South 19. The promising drive was thwarted by a tipped pass that wound up losing nine yards and a 15-yard holding penalty. Davie punted.

On first down from the South 15, defensive end Ivan Poag and d-tackle Darius Leonard gave Davie a shot in the arm. Poag poked the ball out of quarterback Bryce Klinger’s hands, and Leonard was Johnny-on-the-spot, scooping the fumble inside the 5 and walking in for a score that cut the deficit to 17-7.

But the Vikings’ response helped decide the game. They drove 78 yards in 14 plays and chewed 6:10 off the clock. They huddled before every play, blended 167 rushing yards with 153 passing yards, controlled the clock with 23 first downs, punted just once and went 6 of 13 on third-down conversions. The 14-play drive  that made it 25-7 was aided by a face-mask penalty when Klinger had lost yards and South was going to be in fourth-and-long. That one was among repeated mistakes by Davie.

Miller: “We changed our whole offense this week to the huddle stuff. I’ve never huddled in the 10 years I’ve been head coach. We tried to snap it with two seconds left on the clock to keep their offense off the field, and it gave our guys time to talk in the huddle and figure out what was going on.”

Even though only 2:10 remained in the half, Davie rolled 61 yards in 1:23. Hampton’s 12-yard pass to Za’Haree Maddox and two 16-yard runs by Lyerly transported Davie to the South 6. Hampton faked a handoff to Lyerly, fooling the defense, and easily scored as Davie got within 25-14 at the half.

On the first series of the third quarter, the War Eagles picked up 52 yards on eight plays. But their frustration was summed up by what happened next: a 12-yard holding penalty and a lineman-down-field penalty that negated a Maddox reception. Davie punted from the South 36.

After South turned it over on downs, Lyerly broke free for 49 yards. He had one man to beat before going down at the South 10. Hampton scored on a keeper on the next play, and Davie was back in it at 25-20 with 2:50 left in the third.

Devericks: “No one was panicking on the sideline. I said: ‘We’ve just got to keep battling.’ I was proud of their grit. They battled the whole game.”

The ensuing defensive series for Davie was undermined by penalties. Klinger was going to lose substantial yardage after a bad snap. But a War Eagle was flagged for unnecessary roughness for hitting Klinger as he lay on the ground. That was followed by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The 30 penalty yards moved the ball to the Davie 41.

The defense did make a big stand after South had first-and-goal at the 8. Bishop Norman tackled Alterek Adams (19 carries for 96 yards) for a one-yard gain. Trevor Richardson stopped Smyre for a two-yard gain. Caleb Bowling spilled Smyre for minus-one. After driving 74 yards in 12 plays and killing six-plus minutes off the clock, South settled for a 25-yard field goal. That meant it was still a one-possession game, 28-20, with 8:14 to go.

The War Eagles seemed primed for a scoring drive when they covered 60 yards in five plays, with five Lyerly runs sandwiched around a 17-yard keeper by Hampton. On third-and-3 from the South 24, Davie ran an option left. The pitch was fumbled and South recovered, a crushing turnover with 6:21 remaining.

South picked up 13 and 12 yards on pass plays, followed by a 22-yard scamper by Adams. Hazleton drilled a 37-yard FG, his third of the night, to push the margin to 31-20 with 3:16 on the clock, all but icing matters.

Miller: “(Hazleton) won two games for us last year. He helped us beat Statesville (20-19) and West Rowan (48-41 in double overtime).”

And then: “We worked really hard (in practice). It was like 1945 Junction, Tx., out here. We were going at it all week. Our coaches and kids bought into what we were trying to do.”

Devericks: “It was a little bit of old school. It was three yards and a cloud of dust, but they mixed in the pass to keep us honest. They had a good game plan.”

Davie’s passing game had looked far from crisp to this point (48 passing yards). But Hampton engineered a nine-play, 72-yard drive with 7-of-8 passing, connecting three times with Evan Little. Hampton scored his third rushing TD from three yards out.

Davie was now behind by three, but it had feint hopes with only 1:04 to go. South recovered the onside kick and kneeled down in victory formation.

Notes

• Robinson has suffered a devastating knee injury that could cost him the rest of his senior season. He torn his MCL at North Davidson. He sat against Mooresville, gutted it out against West Rowan and had surgery Sept. 20. Assistant coach Perry Long: “Josh said: ‘It’s like I can’t even run. It’s awful.’ I’ve been there and done it and it does hurt. I tore my MCL and ACL (in high school), but I can tell you they all hurt.”

Davie is playing shorthanded. Besides two running backs being out, senior linebacker Hunter Meacham missed his second game with an injury. Devericks: “Some of our key players are banged up and dinged up. It’s very tough for them. Josh will have a few more weeks (out), and Hunter is hopefully halfway through his stuff now.”

• Talk about making the most of your opportunity, Lyerly delivered the most rushing yards in 89 games (Cade Carney had 234 in a win at Page in the 2012 opener in his freshman debut).

Lyerly: “I feel like I had some runs that I could have broken, but overall for a first game on varsity, I think I did pretty good. I actually felt a lot more comfortable than I thought I would. Hey, I’m going to keep working every day.”

And then: “I really look up to Josh. A lot of stuff he does, I try to do sometimes.”

Devericks said the offensive line – Camden Beck, Tanner Batten, Jared Simpson, Stuie Marshall and Spencer Williams carved holes –  deserves a significant amount of credit.

“Excellent,” he said of Lyerly. “The offensive line did a fantastic job to help lighten the load on him. There were a lot of good running lanes. DeVonte can make it happen, but the offensive line did an outstanding job. Being a varsity player (this year) was a goal for DeVonte, and he took advantage of his opportunity.”

Miller: “He’s a very talented running back. He has great vision. He kept sticking his daggum foot in the ground when we thought we had him bottled up. We were trying to keep playing with three linemen and have extra DBs in, but he carved us up when we were just trying to bleed a little bit. Thankfully, he didn’t cut a big artery. It worked for us, but that joker is good.”

• Davie has committed 21 penalties for 206 yards in two weeks, losing by an aggregate six points to W. Rowan and S. Iredell. … Arey got his first varsity INT on the final play of the first half. … Lee Linville, a 1990 Davie graduate, is a second-year South assistant as DL coach. Linville was a Davie assistant from 1996 through the early 2000s.