August 23, 2014 11:44:21 PM
MILLPORT, Ala. -- It didn't dominate the game plan, but "grit" was the Lamar County High School football team's biggest weapon Friday.
The Bulldogs rode the direct-snap play to running back Alex Wheeler in a dominating first half en route to 14-7 victory against county rival South Lamar in the season opener for both teams.
More than 80 percent of the "grit" plays and quarterback runs went off the right side of the offensive line, where tackle Braxton Hollis, guard Christian Clay, and tight end Jeremy Denton -- all seniors -- powered the Bulldogs to 196 yards.
"We have seniors on our line, right and left side," Lamar County coach Ken Adams said. "There's no difference in what side we call; it's whatever's working at the moment. Our go-to-play is the grit. We've been running it for eight years."
Lamar County struck nine plays into the game when Bryce Myles scored on a 4-yard run. The Bulldogs answered the Stallions' 15-play scoring drive in the second quarter when Myles scored on a 13-yard run with 42 seconds remaining until halftime.
Hollis said the Stallions' four-man front remained fairly constant between both halves, aside from occasional switches.
"We believe in running the ball down our opponents' throats," Hollis said. "We kept going to it -- 234, 234 -- all night long. I wanted coach to keep calling that play."
The Bulldogs did, and Myles and Wheeler were the beneficiaries. Myles led the Bulldogs with 88 yards on 15 carries, while Hollis had 62 yards on 16 carries. If not for a block in the back penalty that occurred far behind a Myles run, the Bulldogs would have added a 65-yard scoring run by the senior. Still, the punishing ground game helped control the clock and sparked four drives of nine plays or more.
"The boys, they were big, but we play great as a team," Clay said. "I was kind of surprised it was coming behind us over and over again. I thought they'd try something different ... we just did what we do."
South Lamar coach Shannon McGregory said his defensive scheme wasn't ideal from the start, and he opted to take a defensive back out and replaced him with a defensive lineman. The Bulldogs, though, have size and experience the Stallions couldn't match.
"On the edge, they're really physical," McGregory said. "They have the big tight end, Denton, who gets matched up on smaller guys. Then they have some guys in the backfield who can take advantage of that mismatch. Later on, we did a better job of staying low and getting off those blocks, though."
The Bulldogs' success on the ground pleased Adams due to the unavailability of starting quarterback Cullin Carter, who missed the game to due to illness. Myles, a starting running back, had a week to prepare for his first start at quarterback.
"Last week, Cullin found out he had mono," Adams said. "Bryce came in and did a great job getting ready for tonight. When you have to switch gears, come in and run an entire offense, it's tough. We had to get it done in a week's time. He did an outstanding job. That first drive, to go the length of the field and score, give a lot of credit to him."
It's unclear whether Carter will return next week for a game against Brilliant.
Myles smiled, but delivered a neutral answer when asked if he could still see more snaps at quarterback when Carter returns.
"I don't know ... it depends on what coach thinks," he said.
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