By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Get behind the hosses and go. That’s pretty much the playbook. And, no, it’s not the dusty one dusted off from 1946 or 1970 or whatever old-school year and reminisced about in the local barber shop in Lebanon.
Instead, it’s the modern-day Lebanon Yellowjackets and a sight to behold.
“Smash-mouth,” Lebanon senior center Cole Godwin beamed Friday night. “We take a lot of pride in that.”
Those remarks followed the visiting Yellowjackets’ 40-20 victory against the Glendale Falcons, with Godwin and Co. plowing the road as senior Quameire Wright and junior Isaac Lebetter rushed for a combined 273 yards on 44 carries – and combined for five touchdowns.
Lebanon’s defense also intercepted two passes late in the first half and converted both into TDs. It also limited Glendale’s no-huddle, air brigade offense to 198 total yards, with 128 of those yards coming after the Yellowjackets took a 40-14 advantage with 1:56 left in the third quarter.
“I love it,” Wright said of the offensive line. He had 143 yards on 32 carries and three TDs. “It’s one of the best feelings in the world because they provide a lot of energy.”
Lebanon (4-0) certainly is making its move in the Ozark Conference, and it’s now in its fifth season with the flex-bone offense. Older folks may recall it is similar to the old Jesse Branch offenses at Missouri State in the late 1980s and early 1990s and, recently, those run by Army and Navy.
But to run it, you needed beef up front with the discipline to follow technique. The Yellowjackets showed it with Godwin along with left tackle Mason DeVasure, left guard Kael Ruble, right tackle Garrett Childers, right guard Jordan Lewis and lineman Tristan Wilson.
Lebanon’s solid line play, especially on its kick-out blocks on the edges, allowed Ledbetter and Kale Keagy to find seams and helped Wright bulldoze within the tackles.
Even better for Lebanon, its O-line play seemed at its peak on the three series after Glendale leapfrogged ahead 8-7 late in the first quarter. (That came on a Gavin Watts-to-Chris Floyd slip screen that went for a 42-yard touchdown). This is how they played out:
– Lebanon answered with a quick, six-play drive that ended in Ledbetter’s 7-yard TD run on the edge.
– Cordell Zebel then intercepted a pass five plays later, leading to Wright’s second TD – a 4-yard-run with 2:52 left before halftime – on a drive that covered 67 yards and 15 plays. The TD came 12 plays after a block-in-the-back penalty wiped out Wright’s 42-yard TD run.
– Lebanon’s Dustin Sanders intercepted a pass on Glendale’s next play from scrimmage, and the Yellowjackets reached the end zone seven plays later, with Wright’s 4-yard TD run on fourth-and-4 at the 5.
“That’s what we are,” Lebanon coach Will Christian said of his run-based offense. “It’s been an excellent fit for us. Much like Glendale, you credit them because their offense is challenging because it’s different. And it’s a difficult prep. And it’s equally the same for opponents with what we do. Not many teams get under center anymore, frankly.”
You would get no arguments from Glendale coach Mike Mauk.
“They’re a big, strong physical team. Their kids play hard. They’re well-coached, and they execute their offense and defense really well,” Mauk said.
Glendale (2-2) certainly will look back at what might have been.
A gusty wind out of the south arguably played a role in Lebanon’s two interceptions, as the ball tried to cut through the air traveling toward the southwest. Zebel and Sanders managed to back-pedal in time and get in front of the intended receiver before making the picks.
Still, the Falcons scored on the opening drive of the second half, as Watts hit Jack Clinkenbeard for a 15-yard pass play on an up and out. It was a 28-14 game with 8:57 left in the third quarter.
However, Lebanon answered on quarterback Curtis Mobley’s 54-yard TD run six plays later and, after the Yellowjackets forced a punt, Ledbetter scored on a 35-yard run. It was 40-14 with 1:56 left in the third.
Watts finished 21-of-36 passing for 179 yards for Glendale.
“There are things we’re doing better. Our offensive line is doing a better job at times, and our receivers are catching the ball. And the quarterback makes the plays,” Mauk said. “We see movement in the right direction. And I think our guys are still playing hard.”