INDEPENDENCE — A sluggish start for the Lebanon Warriors, didn't stop them from defeating the Central Panthers on Thursday, Oct. 12.
Lebanon fumbled on their Warrior's play, and was recovered by the Panthers. Central took advantage of the great field position, striking first to take a 7-0 lead early.
The situation of falling behind early is a trend for the Warriors football team in league contests this season.
The first two times the Warriors rallied only to lose in heartbreaking fashion. That trend continued last Thursday, only the outcome was different this time. Lebanon overcame a 14-0 to earn a 40-27 win, and remain in fourth place in the MWC standings.
"That's just us, we wait a quarter, and we kind of see, I don't know what the deal is," said Ty Tomlin, Lebanon's head coach. "I'm proud of our kids. Central's a good team. (Shane) Hedrick is a good coach, and they always have a pretty tough game plan. So they kind of got us, and we had to make some adjustments."
Down 14-0, quarterback Colton Shepard scored on an 80-yard run and the two-point conversion made it 14-8 in the second quarter.
Peter Mendazona hit Isaiah Abraham from 29 yards out for the TD to put Central up 20-8 with 8:40 left in the half.
But the Warriors closed the first half strong with two touchdown passes from Shepard connecting with Eddy Kennedy on a 26-yard TD reception, and a short 3-yard TD pass to Clyde Rood, with 17 seconds for a 21-20 lead to close out the half.
Lebanon increased its lead to 27-20 with a 3-yard rushing touchdown from Rood TD with 7:13 left in the third quarter.
During a heavy downpour starting in the second, the Warriors kept the ball on the ground close to the entirety of the half. The Warriors were able to move the ball nearly at will against Central with that run game, mainly handing the ball off to Rood.
The only passing attempts were after the Warriors were facing a third-and-long situation to force a pass. The Warriors were unable to convert.
Sticking to the ground attack wasn't a planned strategy coming out of the locker room, Tomlin said.
"I didn't really think about it," Tomlin said. "I know we didn't really throw it, but we were getting our chunks, and it was kind of a feel thing. I feel like if we're chunkin' what we want, then I kind of just stick with it. If I think we need to throw it, then I'll throw it."
Early in the fourth, Cody Johnson put the Warriors up 33-20 with a 39-yard touchdown run before the Panthers answered with another passing touchdown to get within 33-27 with 8:49 to play.
Both teams punted on their ensuing possessions before the Warriors chewed up the clock and scored for a 40-27 lead with 1:11 to play.
Other than early in the game, the Warriors were solid on defense. Daniel Hassenger led that effort with seven tackles with two sacks. Chase Miller was a close second with five tackles and one sack.
"I'm really happy for the most part," Tomlin said. "Some of the little things in the first quarter, we didn't necessarily do a good job. Our secondary played a pretty damn good game, and that's been something we've been struggling with."
The kids took a step up last week and grew by not drawing many penalties on both sides of the ball, Tomlin said.
"I'm proud of our kids for responding to some adversity; I'm proud of our kids for not getting penalties," Tomlin said. "There's always things to learn and get better at, but I think our kids did a great job taking another step forward. We just got to keep going at it."
On offense, starting quarterback Shepard completed 11 passes on 19 attempts for 105 yards. He also earned 24-yards on 14 carries. Shepard gave up an interception in the second quarter, but it was overturned on roughing the passer penalty.
For the second week in a row, Shepard said the team struggled with execution early, but the team was in a solid rythym by the start of the second.
"I don't know what it is, but we do it all season. We just come out and we try to do too much," Shepard said, "and we don't play to our potential."
Coming off the comeback in the first half to lead in by one in the first half. The Warriors had discovered who they are in the second.
"We just came out there and just dominated," Shepard said. "Our line just did a great job tonight: No one in particular, when they're together, they are the best O line in the state. I love them to death. They protect me."
Shepard still takes plenty of hits in Lebanon's shotgun veer triple option that has him taking hits to shovel the ball at the last second, or run it himself.
Shepard had a tight leg, that he had to sit out for a play in the second half. He wanted to stay in, but Tomlin made him sit out for one play.
Rood earned 154 yards on 22 carries, including a punt return along with two rushing touchdowns.
"The linemen were blocking their butts off, and what more to do than get a whole bunch of rushing yards for them," Rood said of his performance.
Central falls to 3-4 overall and 1-3 in MWC play.
Lebanon (4-2, 1-2) is at South Albany on Oct. 20. The Rebels (3-4, 3-1) dropped a 28-21 home game to Silverton (3-2, 5-2) on Oct. 12. Crescent Valley (4-0,7-0) leads the league.