SARA—In the physical game of football, a well-conditioned team can count on winning at least one game early in the season on vigor alone.
Lee Academy got that Friday night and took a 19-0 victory from Strayhorn in a game that saw the visiting Lee Colts look stronger and stronger as the game wore on. No Lee player was seen suffering from heat cramps, while the Strayhorn Mustangs hurt repeatedly.
“This was their first game of the season and our third,” said Lee Academy coach Rick Johnston. “We held them early and made the adjustment at the half. It was a good win.”
Lee got their first touchdown midway in the second quarter and then came back with two more in the fourth. And while the Mustangs had a nifty running back, the Lee defense held Strayhorn scoreless.
“We made our mistakes and we’ve got to get better at blocking up front,” said Johnston. “We should have scored a couple more times, but they’re coming around.”
The away game victory was good for the Colts who are 1-2 on the season.
Things looked iffy for the Colts in the first quarter. Strayhorn ran 19 plays on offense compared to Lee’s eight.
But the Colt defense showed up early with two tackles for a loss stopping the first drive and gang-tackling running backs on a sustained but unfruitful second drive by Strayhorn.
Lee got on the board mid-way in the second half doing what they do best: Opening holes up front and letting the running backs go straight ahead.
Field position also played a part, with Lee starting at the Strayhorn 33. Senior back Russell Cook ripped an 11-yard run up the middle to get the drive going and a spectacular diving catch by Graydon Gullick on fourth-and-11 set Lee up at the one yardline.
Cook ran straight ahead for the score and the Colts were up 6-0 at the 5:21 mark of the second quarter.
Lee defensive back Bryan Ray, a sophomore, intercepted the ball at the 15 and raced it back 42 yards to the Strayhorn 43.But with only 11 seconds left on the clock, Lee threw three passes and headed to the halftime locker room.
Lee got the kickoff to open the third quarter with Gullick giving the Colts good field position on a 38-yard return and putting the Colts in business at the Mustang 40. But the Colts couldn’t capitalize, running five plays and punting.
The Colts would get the ball back five plays later when senior defensive lineman Chris Butler pounced on a Mustang fumble. Lee turned around three plays later and fumbled, giving the ball right back. The Colts would fumble on their third possession to wrap up the quarter.
But it was in the fourth quarter when superior conditioning proved its value.
Lee got the ball when linebacker Cook recovered a fumble at the Strayhorn 24. Gullick caught a 23-yard pass in the middle to get the ball to the Strayhorn two yard line. Cook again carried it over to send the score to 12-0.
The two-point conversion was no good.
The Colts came back late in the game to score their final TD. Luke Crumpton ran it into the end zone from the two and Michael Basha made the PAT to finalize the score at 19-0 with four minutes left to play.
“Lee played well and they are well coached,” said Strayhorn Coach Jim Tom Copeland, who played for Johnston in the seventh grade.
Johnston said he was anxious to look at films and see who is developing and what Lee is doing well.
“We will continue to make adjustments and see if I can find the right 11,” said Johnston. “Like I said we made our mistakes, blew coverages, jumped offsides, but overall we kept them hemmed up.This was a good win for us.”
The Colts travel to Rossville Christian Academy – east of Memphis – Friday night. Rossville is 0-2 on the season and lost to Byers, 28-14, last week. Lee beat Rossville 55-6 last year in Clarksdale.