The stage is set for 1A South State Championship as the Panthers look to defend their title against Simmons.
Simmons has had an abnormal year, to say the least, as the Blue Devils played just two games in the regular season. Simmons’ only two games were a 36-9 win over Ethel and a 30-12 win over McAdams.
“It is weird,” Lumberton coach Zach Jones said. “Not many teams in their district played, and I think they started off not playing, but they kicked back in. It’s a little different, but 2020 has been different as a whole. It is what it is.
“They are very athletic, big and strong. Our coaches have said that they mirror us a lot. They can run and seem to be getting better and better every week.”
Last week, Lumberton defeated Stringer 34-6 to punch its ticket back to the South State championship game. In the win, Robert Henry and Rodney Parker rushed for a combined 363 yards and four touchdowns.
The Blue Devils opened the playoffs with a 36-10 win over Resurrection and last week defeated Sebastopol 56-26.
“They are probably the best team that we will play all year,” Jones said. “They have a lot of tradition. They are kind of like us. They expect to be here every year and expect to be in this position. The thing that I have seen on the film every week is that they are just better.”
Simmons runs a spread offense but primarily uses power runs and counter runs. In the Blue Devil’s win over Sebastopol quarterback, Devontae Rush totaled 236 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries. However, Simmons also switches between running backs Jermaine Edwards and Vontrez Rush, combined for 549 yards and three touchdowns in the Blue Devils’ two-game regular season.
“They have three guys that make them go,” Jones said. “It starts off with their quarterback. He is a really good runner and an adequate thrower with the football. He wants to run it.
“All three of those guys will run it. (Edwards) can really fly. We have to be sure that we tackle well and eliminate the big play. Up front, they are big and have a lot of size. I believe the tell-tale sign of how good a football team is how well you can block and tackle, and they do both of those really well.”
Defensively, Simmons, which has held teams to an average of 14.25 points per game, features what Jones describes as a large and athletic defensive line.
“They mix it up on defense,” Jones said. “They’ll have a 4-man or 5-man front on defense and bring some pressure with their linebackers. They are really big on the defensive line. We really need to do a good job of blocking those guys up front and keeping them out of our backfield.”
“I think our guys know what’s at stake,” Jones said. “They have been here before. Not to bring up last year, but we have some unfinished business. This group wants to finish it off.”