High School Football

Loris ends long losing streak to Marion

Coach Jimmy Longerbeam couldn't say no to his players.

Not this time. Not in this situation.

After Loris was unable to score the go-ahead points in regulation against Marion Friday night, the Lions did just that in overtime, beating the Swamp Foxes 27-21.

"They came to me and said 'Run 24 ISO,'" Longerbeam said of the off-tackle play the Lions eventually ran to win the game. "That was their call. They said 'Coach, run it. We'll get it in.'

"I have a lot of confidence in our kids. They've worked hard to get to this position."

Then, they made the most of it, getting a 1-yard R.J. Brown touchdown run, his second score of the game. It was every bit the dramatic start to the Region V-AAA slate Longerbeam and Co. expected, especially since it was Loris' first win over Marion since 1975.

This win, though, was all about the dramatics.

Loris coupled three turnovers with their smash-mouth running style, piling up 283 yards in the process. They got 114 yards from Brown, and another 89 and two touchdown runs from fellow running back Denzell Strayhorne.

But the biggest fireworks came in overtime, starting immediately with Marion's possession.

The Swamp Foxes (2-3, 0-1 Region V-AAA) opened the extra period with a 9-yard run from Lue Clemmons, putting Marion a single yard away from a touchdown. However, the Lions' defense stuffed Marion quarterback Ross White three times, setting up Loris' finale.

"We feel good now, because we haven't beat them in a long time," Brown said. "Our defense never gave up. We played sloppy in the first half. But we stepped it up in the second half."

For Loris, the overtime touchdown was a bit of redemption. The Lions tried to catch Marion off-guard late in the fourth quarter. On Loris' final drive of regulation - which started with 3:32 left - the Lions attempted a long pass play from quarterback Kentrez Hilton. However, the ball was picked off, leaving Longerbeam's team in a tough spot.

"We had a chance to throw the ball down the field because we were running so much," he said. "We were actually behind the kid. We just under threw it a bit."

In the end, it didn't matter. The Lions' (5-1, 1-0) defense was stout for most of the game, allowing only three big plays to really hurt them. Considering Marion's Justin Gause was 100 percent healthy, that's saying even more.

Marion's do-it-all skill player started the game in the Wildcat formation, and while the Lions bottled him up in the first quarter, he made the most of one carry in particular in the second quarter. Gause took a first-down handoff with a little under 3 minutes left before half and outran Loris' linebackers and defensive backs, not stopping until he had finished 50 yards later in the end zone.

Brown opened the scoring on the Lions' opening drive of the game when he capped off a 10-play, 87-yard drive with a 29-yard touchdown run. After that series, Loris looked as if it would be able to run all day on the Swamp Foxes.

It turned out not to be the case.

That initial drive of the game was the lone first-half series in which the Lions pushed the ball past Marion's 42 yard line in the first half. It helped the Swamp Foxes go into the locker room at halftime with a 13-7 lead.

It was the extra time, not time in between halves, though, that made the ultimate difference.