Lebanon rolls to first playoff win since 2004

Blue Devils score 42 unanswered points to eliminate Stewarts Creek

LEBANON – Lebanon’s first quarter was filled with mistakes negating big plays.

The rest of the evening featured the Blue Devils’ big plays negating mistakes.

Lebanon scored 21 points in the second quarter, rolling to a 42-7 victory Friday over visiting Stewarts Creek at Clifton Tribble Field for the Blue Devils’ first playoff win since 2004.

The result also gave Lebanon (10-1) its first 10-win season since 1993 and ended a string of seven consecutive first-round exits in the postseason.

“This one feels really good,” Lebanon head coach Chuck Gentry said. “Playing a Rutherford County team, we knew they’d be tough and how would we handle the newness of playing a playoff game at home – after we got the jitters out and guys got settled down, we played much more cleaner and efficient than we did in the first quarter.”

Jaylen Abston was 15-for-21 with four touchdown passes and threw for 273 yards for the Blue Devils, finding Anthony Crowell twice for scores. Kemontez Logue had two touchdown receptions, one from Abston and one from Devin Greene on a halfback pass on fourth down late in the first half.

“We worked on that all week and (Greene) hit it,” Logue said. “And I was excited about it.”

With time running down in the second quarter, Abston’s pass deflected off the hands of Stewarts Creek’s Tyree Thomas, and Rubin Brinkley corralled the carom for a 57-yard touchdown to send the Blue Devils to the locker room with a 21-7 halftime lead.

But it didn’t start according to plan, however. Penalties negated an 81-yard touchdown on an end-around by Anthony Crowell on the game’s second play and another long run soon after that, then a dropped pass by Crowell ended the first Blue Devil series on fourth down near midfield.

When the Blue Devils reached the Red Hawks’ 10-yard line on their next series, the drive stalled and Stewarts Creek’s Jarian Dunlap busted through to block a field goal attempt, which Nigel Maynord eventually corralled and returned 73 yards for the first points of the contest.

From there, Lebanon settled in and scored the game’s final 42 points, including a 9-yard Brandon Martin touchdown run in the third quarter.

“This team, this year, it’s built different,” Logue said. “Coaches have been preaching all year about (having a good attitude). That’s one thing about it and I love it.”

Stewarts Creek was already missing quarterback Gage Hoover to injury, and matters got worse as Gabe Walker exited the game late in the first quarter with an injury after three carries and did not return.

Javarion Otey – who had a 74-yard touchdown run called back for a penalty – rushed for 43 yards on 16 carries to lead the Red Hawks, who only managed 84 yards of total offense.

“It changed a lot,” Stewarts Creek head coach Ben Caudill said. “You’ve got a 2,000-yard rusher or really close to it that gets taken from you. In my opinion, the best player in (Stewarts Creek) school history, so that’s a really big deal.”

The Red Hawks were making their third consecutive postseason appearance, but the first game on the field since 2019. Stewarts Creek was forced to cancel its playoff opener last season due to COVID issues within the program. The Red Hawks also had two games canceled this season for similar reasons.

“Our backs were against the wall, canceling two games,” Caudill said. “We made the playoffs when many thought we had no chance against a very, very tough Rutherford County region. You can’t take that away from our team. I’m really proud of them.”

The Red Hawks’ senior class went 18-11 over the last three seasons after finishing 3-7 in 2018.

“When they were freshmen, our school had never had a winning season,” Caudill said. “Three straight winning seasons, three straight trips to the 6A playoffs. They changed the course of Stewarts Creek football.”

Lebanon hosts Riverdale in the second round of the 6A playoffs and will try to get its first win over the Warriors since a 6-0 victory in 1993.

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