The score is 7-3 (Pride), and Leesville’s defense is once again back out on the field in the first half. Jaxon Masterson, Sanderson quarterback, is leading his Spartans down the field as the clock approaches halftime.
Dropping back to pass, Masterson is met by Leesville defensive lineman Beau Atkinson, hit as he throws, and the ball hangs in the air. As the ball comes down, it hits starting nose tackle Tylik Caine’s hands, and into the arms of a waiting Will Keever. The interception was the third of the half for the Pride defense, but it was arguably the most important one of the game.
“It shut down any chance of them getting more momentum into the half because they were already fired up. The game could’ve changed majorly if they got a field goal or a touchdown,” said Keever when asked about his interception, the first of the year for the starting linebacker.
Before the momentum-shifting pick, the game between the Pride and Spartans had gone to a dead stalemate in terms of points scored. After a quick rushing score by Andrew Doss, junior running back, in the first couple of drives for the Pride, Leesville could not get going on offense, and neither could Sanderson. As the punt numbers piled up, fans were growing worried of what could happen in the game if their Pride didn’t change things up.
“We knew we had to come out more intense. We were playing more laid back in the first half, so we had to come out of the locker room and punch them in the throat,” said Derell Gray, senior wide receiver, who finished the game with 2 receptions for 12 yards.
And finally, in the third quarter, Leesville finally got the train on the tracks after stalled drives. TJ Moore, senior running back, ripped off a long run down towards the goal line, and two plays later, David Sohn punched the ball in the endzone, on his only carry of the game. After that, Leesville couldn’t stop making plays. The deadly 1-2 running back punch of Doss and Moore proved to be more than the Spartans could handle, as the duo combined for 351 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns, trampling or outrunning any defenders in their way.
Tylik Caine, senior defensive line men, knew his team could run away with the game, but Leesville needed just a little confidence: “[After the Cardinal Gibbons game], we knew were on top. We knew we had to turn up. When our defense plays hard, the momentum shifts over to offense. That’s what hyped us up and motivated us to keep playing hard,” said Caine.
Caine dominated the offensive line of the Spartans at defensive tackle, where he was double and triple teamed almost every snap. Caine could handle most of the linemen, as he forced pressure on the quarterback and was a big factor in stopping the run game. In the second half, Caine was moved to defensive end to free up the middle and run more blitzes at Masterson.
The offense of Leesville thrived over the course of the game due to the work on the ground, so the passing game had little effect as the score kept running up. Trey Baker, Leesville’s starting quarterback, went 5-11 on pass attempts, for 47 yards. The leading receiver for Leesville was Noah Burnette, who caught 2 balls for 29 yards.
As the offense went to work and the defense kept forcing Sanderson to punt, the fans kept up their energy in the second half after a long first half without many points. The Leesville student section made their presence known, backing the Pride on every down.
While the game clock was winding down, Marcus Purvis, starting cornerback couldn’t end the night for the Pride until he got himself involved in scoring. With less than three minutes to go in the game, Purvis returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown, making a few defenders miss along the way to score the final points of the game. Purvis finished the game with two tackles and one interception.
“We were expecting one thing, and they came out with a ton of energy, so we had to adapt to that, and we overcame them,” said Keever.
With the win, the Pride move onto a perfect 6-0 record, and 2-0 in Cap-7 play.
On Friday, the Pride will attempt to extend their winning streak another game when they travel to Millbrook to take on the 4-3 Wildcats.