Levon Stevenson needed to make one defender miss.
The Loris quarterback did just that, leading the Lions to a 22-19 season-opening win over St. James on Friday night. Stevenson ended a back-and-forth second half when he eluded Sharks safety Austin Werba and got into the end zone from 4 yards out with just 1:54 left in the game.
Stevenson had been relatively quiet to that point, but made some noise when it mattered most.
“We were ready for this,” he said. “The (offensive line) gave me enough time there, and I did what I needed to do.”
The win was a bounce-back of sorts for a Loris program that struggled to a 4-7 mark and a first-round playoff exit a year ago. And it did it by eliminating the mistakes that plagued the squad throughout 2016, but also in the first half.
The Lions failed to score early, in part because of a turnover and nine first-half penalties. After the break, Jamie Snider’s team had just one penalty and did not give the ball away.
The effort spoiled the debut of first-year St. James head coach Joey Price. The longtime North Carolina coach would have been the first Sharks leader to win his opener.
Instead, the team’s losing streak increased to 12 games.
Stevenson’s 4-yard scamper with under 2 minutes to play pushed the Lions ahead, but it was nearly St. James kicker Riley Parker who got to play the role of hero. Parker’s last-second, 38-yard field goal attempt – one that would have forced overtime – had plenty of leg but missed just wide.
Loris running back Kendall Goodson: The senior finished the game with 188 yards, a touchdown and a two-point conversion.
St. James running back Chris Anderson: The junior had 111 yards rushing and added a 55-yard touchdown reception.
St. James receiver Gage Flohr: He took advantage of his 6-foot-3 frame en route to 63 yards worth of receptions and a touchdown, all in the first half
By the numbers
The two teams combined for 20 first-half penalties for 110 total yards.
Loris’ final offensive drive of the game chewed up more than 6 minutes worth of clock, leaving St. James little time to answer
Loris is now 7-1 all time against St. James, with the Sharks’ lone win in the series coming in 2015.
They said it
“I saw a lot of no quit. You go on the road for the first game. They’re all excited about having a new coach, and Coach Price and those guys do a great job. But the way our kids fought, they just hung in there. They didn’t hang their heads.” - Loris coach Jamie Snider
“It feels a whole lot different. We conditioned all over the summer. It’s just a team effort. It’s all heart.” - Loris quarterback Levon Stevenson
“We made enough plays to get the win tonight. … I’m not going to say we’re as fast as we used to be, but this group gave a great effort.” - Snider
STJ - Gage Flohr 7 rec from Berkeley Young (kick failed)
LOR - Waderek Hemingway 6 run (Kendall Goodson run)
STJ - Chris Anderson 55 rec from Young (conv. failed)
LOR - Goodson 18 run (Goodson run)
STJ - Hunter Smiley 32 rec from Young (Riley Parker kick)
LOR - Stevenson 4 run (conv. failed)
Rushing: Loris: Kendall Goodson 26-188; Waderek Hemingway 22-80. St. James: Chris Anderson 25-111.
Passing: Loris: Levon Stevenson 6-10-0, 52. St. James: Berkeley Young 11-23-1, 205.
Receiving: Loris: Jahrique Isaiah 4-42; Travis Walters 2-10; St. James: Gage Flohr 3-63; Chris Anderson 1-55.