Going into the spring, one of the top priorities for the Lawrence County Red Devils was rekindling a strong rushing attack that had gone dormant last year.
The Red Devils faced off with the Sheffield Bulldogs in the team’s annual spring game last Thursday.
One of the biggest takeaways was the Devils’ improved rushing attack that saw them gain multiple big chunk plays on the ground
“That’s a definite positive that we were all happy to sit back and see,” said head coach Rich Dutton. “The running backs have developed in the weight room.”
Allen Johnson returns as the starter and Gage Dutton, who started at H-back, also had a solid game. Even Colton Johnson, the team’s star linebacker, got in on the fun, breaking multiple tackles for a huge run once and adding a touchdown score later.
However, it wasn’t just the running backs that have improved but the offensive line as well.
“Whenever you have three different backs that are successful you know that’s a product of good offensive line play,” Dutton said. “They’re one of the strongest groups we’ve had from weight room numbers and they did a good job of understanding what we’re doing and not missing assignments.”
Finding an improved rushing attack is important to balance out the offense. Last year the Red Devils had a strong passing attack, as evident by Austin Blankenship breaking every LC passing record. However, that balance between rushing and passing is still needed.
Speaking of the passing game, soon to be senior quarterback Ty Hutto made his first appearance in a game atmosphere since tearing his ACL in last year’s spring game.
Hutto showed a little rust, had an opening drive touchdown pass called back for a penalty and was also plagued by a few unchracteristic drops from his receivers. Overall though, Hutto had a solid outing with some solid throws, including a nice back shoulder throw to Tayi Strickland on third down to keep the drive going.
“I’m not worried about Ty’s athleticism or his ability to make plays,” Dutton said. “What I needed to see was how did he manage the huddle? How did he control attitudes and do the little things that quarterbacks need to do. That was the most impressive thing I saw from Ty was he stay composed and also helped the team stay composed as well.”
Lawrence County played well on defense as well, especially up front, notching several sacks and tackles for loss. They did give up two big plays through the air that both went for touchdowns, but they also picked off three Sheffield passes.
Kaden Edwards and Mac Phillips started at cornerback. Edwards was a fringe starter last year and Phillips is new to the position and both took some lumps, but Dutton was happy to see it.
“It’s something to key on. We changed our defense two days prior to the game and we put our kids in a lot of isolation coverage,” he said. “They gave up some passes but I don’t care if that happens in May. I want to see the kid and how he responds to that. Sheffield brought some good athletes for us to see. They got some passes but the important thing to me is what is his attitude after it happens. If he responds positive then that’s a huge growth moment.”
Another key aspect to the spring that Dutton was looking for was more depth. Last year the Devils had to play a lot of guys both ways for a large portion of games and he felt that hurt them late in games.
“If we want to play with the top tier teams in 5A we’re going to have to really get that going,” Dutton said. “Because we split our team into two it made it more difficult, but still most of our guys were 80% one side of the ball and just 20% the other. We’re inching closer and hopefully we can get there this summer.”