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Lions Roll To Conference Championship

With a guest announcer and the added support of both the Comets marching band and county elementary school fifth-graders, Wednesday’s Halifax County-Russell football game at Tuck Dillard Memorial Stadium had the feel of a Friday night high school contest. The Lions responded with a performance worthy of the extra attention, scoring touchdowns the first three times it touched the ball on the way to a 36-18 win and the conference title.

Five-yard touchdown runs by Ezra Walker and Tyler Stephens, along with a Stephens conversion run and Stephens conversion pass to Truman Brown gave Halifax a 16-0 lead after one quarter.

A 10-yard Stephens to Brown touchdown pass gave the Lions a 22-0 lead early in the second quarter, but Russell stormed back into contention with a 40-yard touchdown run and eight-yard touchdown pass following a fumble recovery and return to the Halifax five-yard line.

Halifax, leading 22-12 at halftime, put the game away with touchdowns in the third and fourth quarter, Stephens scoring on a 40-yard punt return and Donta Crews adding the two-point conversion run to make it 30-12 after three quarters.

The Lions added a final touchdown early in the fourth quarter on a fourth-down pass completion, with James Burden hauling in a tipped pass from Stephens and scoring on a 65-yard play to make it 36-12.

Russell scored with less than two minutes remaining, scooping up a missed Lions lateral and returning the ball 16 yards for the final score of the game.

The Halifax defense forced four Russell turnovers during the game, with a fumble recovery by Jerry Lennon leading to the third Lions’ score.

Interceptions by Tim Desmond and Stephens halted Russell drives at the Halifax 24- and 18-yard lines in the second half.

Lions coach Frank Shealy said after the game that a conference championship was one of the team’s goals coming into the year.

The win didn’t come without some anxious moments, however.

“We had a couple of breaks go out way,” said Shealy, referring to the turnovers and the tipped pass that led to a touchdown.

“I told the guys Russell would be fast and they would throw the ball and use their speed to get outside, and I told them they would use that speed to keep us from getting outside.

“Russell was fast and got to the corners on defense, and they tackled well.

“That’s how it panned out today and I knew Russell wouldn’t give up after going down three scores.”

The Lions may have become a little complacent after rolling to three quick scores, Shealy admitted.

“Everything was going our way in the first quarter and I think what happened in the second quarter was that we thought it would be a runaway, and we relaxed and got a little lazy,” he said.

“They came back on us real quick and made me kind of nervous, but I told the guys before the game that I thought this game was ours to take.
“Take nothing away from Russell, but I honestly believed the only way that Russell would win this game was if we gave it to them, that’s how much confidence I have in this team.
“We’ve had some bumps and lost some players this year, but the team has hung in there.”
Halifax regained the initiative in the second half with the help of the interceptions from Desmond and Stephens, but as a whole his team made plays, Shealy added.

“You can point to a bunch of plays that made a difference for us and that’s what counts, but if we didn’t have that 22-0 lead right off the bat, it could have been a different ball game.

“That solid start put us ahead and carried us through the rest of the game.”

One goal remains for the Lions, an undefeated season, and Ben Franklin Middle School stands in the way.

The Lions’ sixth- and seventh-grade teams are scheduled to play their Ben Franklin counterparts, Shealy said.

“We’re a little undermanned on the sixth- and seventh-grade levels, but we have some players there.

“We have some skill and linemen on both sides of the ball, and if they play hard and eliminate mistakes, they should be prepared.
“I think they’ll be fine.”

Russell    0    12    0    6-18
Halifax County    16    6    8    6-36

Scoring Summary
First Quarter
HC – E. Walker, five-yard run, T. Stephens conversion run
HC – Stephens five-yard run, T. Brown conversion pass from Stephens
Second Quarter
HC – Brown 10-yard pass from Stephens
R – 40-yard run
R – Eight-yard pass
Third Quarter
H – Stephens 40-yard punt return, D. Crews conversion run
Fourth Quarter
H – J. Burden 65-yard pass from Stephens
R – 16-yard lateral return

Russell    0    12    0    6-18
Halifax County    16    6    8    6-36