GREENBRIER – Tackling a 5-foot-10, 240-pound tailback isn’t easy, especially when a defense begins to wear down in the second half.
Montgomery Central (6-1) and its star running back Lakendriez Sanders have benefited from that all season. The scheme worked again Friday night in a 30-0 Region 5-4A victory over Greenbrier.
“That’s our whole game plan every week, and it’s not a secret,” Montgomery Central coach Jeff Tomlinson said. “If we hand (Sanders) the ball enough, they’re going to get tired of tackling him. We’re going to lean on him. That’s just what we do.”
Sanders rushed for 137 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Most of his damage came in the final two quarters, when the Indians’ ground-and-pound style became too much for the Bobcats.
“I love it,” Sanders said. “It works every time. Coach (Tomlinson) says, ‘If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it.’”
Montgomery Central led just 10-0 at halftime. Michael Lodell kicked a 33-yard field goal for the game’s first points, and Kael Davis returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown.
Greenbrier had a prime opportunity to score before the break, but QB Tristan Leopold couldn’t find an open receiver and was tackled as time expired.
“You score there at halftime to make it 10-7, and you never know what’s going to happen,” Greenbrier coach John Elmore said. “Too many missed opportunities.”
The Indian defense kept the Bobcats from sniffing the end zone again. Tomlinson said he was pleased that his team wasn’t confused by the constant movement of the Greenbrier offense.
“The defense came out and set the tone for us,” Tomlinson said. “They played really smart football. We’ve preached to them all week about getting their pre-snap keys and reads. If you just chase the football against an offense like (Greenbrier’s), you’re going to lose it with all the misdirection.”
In the second half, Sanders went to work. He carried the ball nine times for 50 yards on a single drive that ended with his 1-yard touchdown run. That possession burned more than seven minutes of the third quarter and gave the Indians a 17-0 lead.
“We ran on the right side at least eight times,” Sanders said. “I was winded. But every time I came back to the huddle, my line was there picking me up.”
Leopold exited the game with an injury in the third quarter. He was replaced by sophomore Brogan Harden, who was immediately picked off by Montgomery Central junior Mason Shelton.
Montgomery Central then cashed in with a 4-yard touchdown run from Logan Sykes to make it 24-0 at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Sykes added an insurance score on a QB sneak with 7:45 remaining.
Leopold’s injury was the latest development in his snake-bitten senior year. He has missed time due to a concussion, an illness and a suspension. However, Elmore said Leopold is likely to play this Friday.
“He’s had a tough year so far,” Elmore said. “Nicks and bangs – that can happen at any point in time. But he’s a tough kid.”
Senior tailback Reagan Conquest led the Bobcats with 85 rushing yards on 21 carries. Leopold completed four of his 10 passes for 82 yards. Senior Gavin Ledbetter hauled in three catches for 58 yards.
Greenbrier (1-6, 1-3) is set to travel to Cheatham County this Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Cubs are riding a five-game losing streak.
“We’ve got to get our mistakes corrected,” Elmore said. “We have to take care of ourselves more than anything else.”
Montgomery Central improved its Region 5-4A record to 2-1. The Indians host Springfield (4-2, 2-0 Region 5-4A) Friday in a matchup with major playoff implications. Creek Wood (6-1, 2-1) and Portland (4-3, 3-1) are also part of the muddy postseason picture.
“We at least hold our own destiny,” Tomlinson said. “If we keep winning, I feel like we will be the region champs. It’s all mixed up. You can’t really tell. But all we have to do is keep winning.”