Had Leesville Road been healthy and with a full squad on the road at Garner, the Pride might be going into their bye week with a .500 record. However, the team was plagued by injuries, and it may have cost them what could have been a big win on the road.
The Trojans (3-1) defeated the Pride (1-3) 24-10 last night in a shorter game than either side was used to. With senior quarterback Clay Vick out with a knee injury, Leesville was forced to switch things up on offense, and they chose sophomore QB Evan Provost for the job. The Pride offense also featured the occasional wildcat formation, run by junior Cooper Eason-Riddle.
The game started off fast, and both sides came out with a few strong defensive stops. Garner had an early field goal opportunity, but Garner kicker Noah Giroux missed a short kick that would have made it 3-0. It wouldn’t be long though before Garner got on the scoreboard, as they rushed it in for a touchdown with 1:47 left in the first.
It was clear early on that the Pride would have to heavily rely on their defense, as the offense was struggling to gain momentum with a new quarterback at the helm. With about 40 seconds gone in the second quarter, Garner’s quarterback Brodie West mistargeted his receiver and senior linebacker Patrick Rice intercepted the ball and ran it back for six. With 11:17 to go before the half, Leesville and Garner were all tied up at 7 a piece. Rice spoke about his interception after the game.
“I saw him drop back and kept my eyes on him (West). He tried to throw the ball over me, I jumped up and caught it, and took off for the nearest pilon. It was huge for us; it kept us close.”
Before the half, Leesville’s Provost would throw an interception and Garner would capitalize. Garner QB Brodie West threw a touchdown pass and kicker Noah Giroux’s 35 yard kick would make it 17-7 at the half. Leesville was confident with only 17 points given up going into the half, as they gave up 83 last week at J.H. Rose in Greenville.
“(Our defense) was outstanding,” said Leesville’s coach Wilson after the game. “Last week was rock bottom for us. If this game is any indication as to how far we’ve come in a week’s time, I’ll take it.”
The second half was relatively quiet for both teams. The only Leesville score of the half would come off a Jefferson Norwood 28 yard field goal, making it 17-10. While things stayed even for a while thanks to a few promising drives and a little help from Garner after another missed field goal, nothing translated to an equalizing touchdown.
When the fourth quarter came around, all Garner would need to do is score a touchdown and run the clock down. With 1:35 left, Garner went for it on fourth down at the Pride 29 and running back Braxton Brokenborough ran the ball to the house to make it 24-10. With no timeouts left for Leesville and a quick four-and-out, Garner would take a knee to cap off the evening.
“It was really 17,” said Wilson. “They caught us in a bad defensive set there and on 4th and 2 late they made us pay, but hey.”
The Pride who were already missing multiple starters due to injury, most notoriously quarterback Clay Vick and lineman Harrison Sullivan, lost yet another key starter due to injury. Junior receiver and kick returner Matt Hamilton had to leave the game due to an apparent collarbone injury. His status is unknown.
“Matt was part of a little wrinkle I had worked on all week long on offense to help us out, keep us in the game, and take the pressure off of a young quarterback. When he got hurt, it took that part of the game plan out,” said Wilson.
As for the team in general, the Pride offense was held to 93 yards of total offense the whole evening, and the only score came from Patrick Rice’s interception return for a touchdown. Quarterback Evan Provost did what one would expect of a first game starter and underclassman, as he threw the ball decently at times, but also surrendered two interceptions to an experienced Garner secondary. Wilson still defended his offense after the game.
“We had some miscommunications with the receivers, I think the offensive line could have done better, and I think Evan rushed himself a little bit, but I coach the offense. That’s on me.”
Throughout the game, the crowd was trying it’s best to arouse some motivation and confidence out of the young quarterback, and in the fourth quarter, chants of “Evan Provost” were heard from the stands frequently. After the game, Provost tweeted to express his appreciation for the support all throughout the game.
All in all, the Pride certainly have some positives to take away going into week 5. Despite the low offensive numbers, the defense stepped up, and coach Wilson sees plenty of upside from his team.
“We scheduled some pretty tough games early. The thinking was, for me, I want to get to the point where we’ve got the best program in the state of North Carolina. These guys need to see what level they need to get to. This is a great football tradition and we’re right there.”
This week is a bye week for Leesville, but the next game on the schedule for the Pride is in week six at Heritage, where Leesville will kick off conference play.