After two weeks off, the Lebanon football team didn’t skip a beat, coming out on top in front of their home crowd to advance to the program’s fourth straight district championship after a 47-14 win over the Willard Tigers on Friday night in the Class 5 District 5 semifinals.
Behind a rushing attack of 524 yards, the Yellowjackets’ offense was merely unstoppable. Sophomore Cade Muscia led LHS with 151 rushing yards and a touchdown, while Isaac Ledbetter had 125 and senior Drew McBride and junior Logan Lybarger had 75 yards rushing each. Nathan Bartell had 56 rushing yards and two scores in the game on Friday night.
“I am proud of our kids and coaches,” head coach Will Christian said after the game. “I think we did a nice job over the course of time that we had to address some things and make our football team better, and I think that showed (on Friday).
“Willard is a team that plays great competition, and we were dominant. I think our offensive line from start to finish has been the staple of our football team. With what we do, that is pivotal, and that goes without saying.”
Lebanon (6-3 overall) started with a bang as it took the offense just six plays to go 83-yards when Ledbetter broke loose to the outside to go up 7-0 with 8:49 left in the first quarter.
After LHS's defense forced a three-and-out, the offense responded with a 69-yard drive that resulted in a two-yard score for McBride to push the lead to 14.
With another stop ensuing on the next possession, the Yellowjackets got a 20-yard score from Muscia and a second touchdown from Ledbetter to extend the score to 28-0 before halftime.
The Tigers finally found pay dirt with 1:54 when Tyler Jans scored from one-yard out to make it 28-7 heading into the locker room.
Lebanon came out of the locker room fired up and took it to the Willard offense as a forced fumble wound up in the hands of senior Garrett Childers to set up the score for McBride, going up 34-7 with 7:17 left in the third quarter.
Willard didn’t waste time, driving down the field of LHS before the Tigers’ quarterback was sacked by senior Hunter Henry on fourth down to give LHS the ball back on offense.
Bartell would score two dagger touchdowns late in the third and fourth quarter before the Tigers got a garbage-time touchdown late in the game.
After the game, Christian was complimentary of the plethora of running backs that have been able to use in 2020. The Yellowjackets were without star running back Antonio Rogers on Friday, who is dealing with an injury.
“The reason we went to the offense was partly due to the offensive line we just talked about, but the other part is because we have a lot of quality backs,” he stated. “It fits us good, and that is obvious by the way our offense has played most of the season.
With two weeks off, Christian invested plenty of time into the defense, and it paid off as the Yellowjackets were able to make solid plays regularly throughout the game.
“I thought it was much improved,” he said of the defense. “We gave up a couple of passes, and other than that, I thought we played well.
“We had new faces in some new spots, and I am excited where we are at defensively.”
Lebanon will play host to Glendale at 7 p.m. next Friday in the district title game, hoping to advance to the Quarterfinal round of the playoffs after the Falcons dominated Waynesville in the other semifinal game, 58-39.
LHS beat the Falcons 54-20 earlier in the year, but Christian knows you will have to throw the first score out the window.
“You have to learn from the mistakes you made in the first meeting,” he mentioned. “We have a list of things we did well in the first meeting and a list of things we didn’t do well, so we need to be prepared.
“We have to hit the reset button and leave no stone unturned … if we do all the right things, then we will be in good shape to bring home a distric title.”