RICHBURG — If Lewisville principal Dr. James Knoxs afternoon announcement sign-off was any kind of metric, the school and the surrounding community of Richburg are excited about Friday nights football matchup with Lamar High School.
Gooooooooooo Lions! Knox roared with verve, drawing out every single o.
After winning six of the seasons first seven games, folks are beginning to think Lewisville is back. Off to their best start since 2000, the Lions are ranked 10th in the Class-A state poll and host Lamar, also state-ranked, Friday night with a chance to stake a claim for the Class A Region 3 championship.
Its a stark reversal from the recent past. Last years 3-8 mark personified a stagnant nine or 10-year period, a decline for a Lewisville program that appeared in seven state championships (winning four) in the 1980s and 90s, and annually was one of the Class-A teams to beat in South Carolina.
First-year coach Will Mitchell knew that if his team could get off to a good start it would help him convince the players his way was the right way. That proved prophetic.
Really, the good start goes all the way back from this summer, and the buy-in and the leadership we had from our nine seniors, said Mitchell.
The Lions stumbled in the seasons second week, losing to local rival Chester 48-8. But they immediately regrouped to win their next five games, scoring more than 40 points in four of the five victories. Mitchells team is only allowing 16.5 points per game, and even that average is skewed by the Chester loss.
Weve had to learn how to win a little bit, said Mitchell. Weve been lucky; the ball has bounced our way a little bit. But that goes along with working hard too, you create situations like that.
Lewisvilles kids wanted to win. Badly.
And that stems from this community and football being so important, said Mitchell. Thats been a real positive. Almost all of these kids have uncles or dads or granddads or cousins that played when Lewisville was putting out championship teams, and they want to get back to that.
With that in mind, its not surprising that the players fell in line with Mitchells plans, even without any evidence that they would succeed.
They had to kind of take our word for it at the beginning, he said. The best thing now is that theyre seeing the results of their hard work.
That hard stuff included installing a new spread, no-huddle offense, one that Mitchell tailored to the athletes at his disposal. The spread sounds exciting and fast-paced, and when run properly, it is. But dont get it twisted; Mitchells team doesnt throw the ball around 50 times every game.
We like to call ourselves a power team in spread clothing, he said. We like to run the ball downhill, but well take what they give us.
Mitchell has a half dozen guys that can make plays when they get the ball, but its two players in particular, quarterback Qua Walls and running back Malcolm Means, that have been doing the most damage.
Both of those two young men are extremely gifted, Mitchell explains, and Im a person that just by philosophy I tend to be very hard on my more gifted kids. I told them, I dont want you to waste this ability youve been given. My job as a coach is to push you to places you dont want to go. And both of those young men have taken everything I can dish out.
Said Means: They didnt let us just be normal. They wouldnt settle for average.
Positive peer pressure has a huge impact on teenagers, and its easier to fall in line when the two best players lead the way. Thats been the case for Lewisville where Walls and Means are not only leading off the field, but in between the spray-painted white lines as well.
Means is averaging 8.5 yards per carry and hes well on his way to a 1,000-yard season. The strapping 6-foot-2, 190-pound athlete, who along with Walls is getting Division I college football recruiting interest, also has eight rushing touchdowns and two more receiving scores, not to mention a 109-yard interception return in a 49-0 homecoming win over Eau Claire that went for a touchdown and tied a state record.
The quickness with which Walls gobbled up Mitchells novel spread offense has been one of the crucial developments for the Lions this year. Hes already thrown for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns, and has 674 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. Walls can spread the ball around to Means and receivers Allen Jordan, Tony Gaston and Cody Montgomery, who all have at least 14 catches on the season.
If Lewisville knocks off Lamar Friday night, theyll have the inside track to a region championship with the other three teams, McBee, Johnson and Great Falls, a combined 4-16. The 4-2 Silver Foxes, led by former York coach J.R. Boyd, havent played in Region 3-A yet, but do have program pedigree with three state championships to their name. Tradition alone will get Mitchells Lions nowhere Friday night. Instead, their success will be derived from the sweat-dripping efforts during those steamy summer mornings.
To Mitchell that might seem like forever ago. Readying for a Thursday afternoon walk-through, Lewisvilles football coaches and players chuckled at Knoxs uproarious intercom urgings. But they sure wouldnt mind if he was hollering like that again Monday morning.
Bret McCormick 329-4032.