Taking care of business: Great second half leads Tigers past Bruins | Sports

LEBANON – Lebanon head coach Jeff Smock’s message ahead of Friday night’s game against Tri-West was that no one had yet seen the Tigers play to their potential for a full game this season .

And for the first half on Friday night, it seemed to be more or less the same. The Tigers were unable to complete their practices and found themselves trailing the visiting Bruins 14-0.

But the second half was another story. Boosted by big plays on defense and a solid run from Carson Toole, the Tigers scored an unanswered 21 points to edge the Bruins 21-14 to earn a home win.

“Everyone saw us playing with a bunch of talented guys doing some silly stuff,” Smock said. “We saw that again in the first half. We made some adjustments and challenged some guys. They took that to heart and a ton of credit goes to them and the resilience they showed.”

Smock pointed out that Friday’s game was very similar to the Tigers’ conference opener against Danville three weeks ago.

There the Tigers lost 14 points, got back into the game, but couldn’t complete the comeback. They learned from it and improved.

“We weren’t mentally tough enough to fight at the end and find a way to beat that Danville team and it was just sticking with us,” Smock said. “Tri-West are a hell of a football team. And some things were definitely going our way, but this is a big, big win.”

Smock said the Tigers have really focused in recent weeks on “process rather than results.”

He said he wanted the team to focus on one game at a time and not worry about the big picture. Against a team like Tri-West, Smock said, it can make a huge difference.

“The game is simple,” Smock said. “When you can train yourself mentally to care about every game – and that’s really hard to do – but it allows you to succeed. That’s what we saw in the second half. If the attack fell apart , the defense stepped up and made a big play and that’s what good teams do. When one team doesn’t do much the other steps in and you find a way to play football the way we do. did in the fourth quarter.

The perfect example is the game-changing streak in the third quarter.

After Lebanon made three outs to start the second half, the Bruins had a big passing game to get to the Tigers 21.

But on the very next play, the Bruins fumbled and it was picked up by Levi Poland, who ran along the sideline for the defensive touchdown.

“It was a massive game,” Smock said. “We just needed something to give us some juice. We were leaning a bit there, but that’s what our guys can do. We’ve got game makers all over the place. We tell them all the time, he going to be opportunities, you’re ready when it’s your time. Today Levi was.”

Poland were also involved in a huge game which kept the tide in favor of the Tigers.

The Tigers had to get out of their own end zone on their next possession and gave the Bruins a short field on the Lebanon 25.

But once again the Tigers defense got stronger and forced a fumble on the next play, which Poland recovered to give the ball back to the Tigers.

Then it was time for the Carson Toole show.

The senior ran the ball 11 times on the ensuing drive for 71 yards, finishing the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run with 4:53 to go. The Tigers went for two and converted, with Landon Fouts finding Junior DeLaRosa for the conversion to give the Tigers a 15-14 lead.

Tri-West threw an interception two plays later, and Toole scored from 20 yards out to put the Tigers ahead 21-14 with 2:26 left.

He finished with 103 yards in the fourth quarter and 122 in the game.

“That’s who he is,” Smock said. “He’s going north to south quickly. He’ll bounce back when he needs it. The guys have a hell of a confidence when the No. 1 runs the ball behind them. It was just an amazing fourth quarter.”

It was up to the Tigers defense to hold the lead.

The Bruins marched downfield to the Tigers 8-yard line in the final minute, but four straight misses ended the game.

Brendan Shockley added 63 rushing yards for the Tigers.

Landon Fouts was 4 of 11 for 45 yards, as the Bruins defense did a good job of slowing down the Tigers’ powerful passing attack.

“You have to be able to adapt and have good complementary pieces that can take advantage of that when a team wants to manipulate their scheme,” Smock said. “It hurt us in the past. The running game broke for us in the second half.”

Victory for the Tigers means they control their own destiny to claim a share of the conference title.

Southmont are atop the conference at 4-0, but still have to play Lebanon, Tri-West and Western Boone, all of whom are 3-1.

The Tigers will travel to Crawfordsville next week.

“We still have pending positions,” Smock said. “Next week it’s going to be about solidifying some rotations going into the home stretch. If we continue to stay healthy, improve and train well, we’ll give ourselves a chance.”