After jumping ahead 30-0 in the second half, Lamar’s offense wasn’t given a chance at a breather, as Presbyterian Christian School altered its offensive formation.
The result was 43 points in just a half of football last Friday as the Bobcats turned a Raiders blowout into a nail-biter. PCS was able to recover several onside kicks and continue scoring, putting the pressure on the Lamar offense to stay far enough ahead to maintain its lead.
The Raiders’ offense answered the call, finishing with 302 yards passing and 139 yards rushing in a 51-43 win. Head coach Mac Barnes said he doesn’t recall ever seeing so many onside kicks in one game, except possibly in 1983, when he was head coach at Meridian and faced Demopolis in a 27-20 Wildcats win that season.
“I think there were three of them in the fourth quarter,” Barnes recalled. “You go over it, but you don’t really practice it. I don’t even know all the rules about onside kicks because they’ve changed so much, so one of the things I’m doing this week is trying to get caught up on that.”
PCS made a point to maximize the touches of its two best athletes, Markeys Crosby and Ricco Dorsey, with a different offensive formation in the second half, and Barnes said it caught his defense off guard.
“We knew they had two really good athletes, and they happened to get us in a certain situation that we weren’t ready for and couldn’t stop,” Barnes said. “Thank heavens we scored enough points to outscore them and played well enough in the first half to get a pretty substantial lead.”
Senior receiver Jacob Partridge, who finished with 10 catches for 220 yards and three touchdowns, said it was stressful having to keep scoring to keep PCS at bay, but he stressed to his teammates that it was necessary even when Lamar had a 30-0 lead in the third quarter.
“We just had to keep the guys knowing the game wasn’t over, that they could come back at any time with two players of that caliber,” Partridge said.
Following a 10-3 loss to Tuscaloosa Academy at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama, to open the season, Lamar’s offense has been on a roll, scoring 34 and 51 points, respectively, in games against Starkville Academy and PCS.
“We just played in an extremely hot environment in that first game, and once that first quarter was over, no one was going to play well,” Barnes said. “We saw what we needed to do and really worked on our passing game out of the option. We’re really getting the ball quickly to Jacob, and I think people are finding out that he’s really good with the ball in his hands.”
Partridge was constantly making defenders miss in the open field against PCS, and Barnes said that and his toughness allow him to put up substantial yards after the catch.
“He has no fear, and when he gets the ball amongst a crowd, he’s not going out of bounds,” Barnes said. “He can just stop (and change directions) on a dime, and he was doing that last year, so we really feel fortunate to have a guy like that.”
Partridge said his mindset in the open field is simple.
“Make somebody miss,” Partridge said. “Try to get to the first (down marker) — then after that, I’m looking to score.”
There’s more to Partridge than his physical abilities, however. Barnes said Partridge, who has been a three-year starter for the Raiders, has a keen awareness on the field, and his knowledge of the game reminds him of Joseph Hutchinson, Lamar’s quarterback from 2016-18 who is currently a freshman at Princeton.
“This past Friday, he actually signaled to me two or three plays that he thought would work, and I called them the next play, and they worked,” Barnes said. “He’s in the ball game almost like a quarterback, and that’s how Joseph was: All the time, he was looking for something that would work. Seniors that are three-year starters, people don’t understand what a difference that makes. They don’t realize how hard it is to play the game unless you understand it, and Jacob understands the game. Plus, he’s extremely competitive, and even though he’s not very big, he’s probably four inches taller and 20 pounds heavier than last year.”
Since he’s on the field, Partridge said it gives him a chance to scout opposing defenses and relay information back to the coaches who don’t necessarily have his vantage point during games.
“It’s just a lot easier to see some stuff when you’re out there compared to when you’re coaching on the sidelines, because you see it every play,” Partridge explained. “For example, when they put No. 18 (Dorsey) in, you could tell he’s really trying to stop the screen all night long, so we just called a screen pass for him to come up and then just threw it right behind him.”
Junior Will Morris and sophomore Zagar Cooper have taken the reins at quarterback this season following Hutchinson’s graduation, with Morris getting the bulk of the snaps under center. So far, Barnes said he’s been pleased with both of them.
“We played Zagar on defense in the first game and decided we wanted him on offense, so he’s playing receiver,” Barnes said. “He’ll take some snaps, particularly in running situations. Both have worked hard. Will the last two games has been very accurate, and we’ve pretty much gotten over that Tuscaloosa game. We just didn’t play well, and it’s over. We’ve played three pretty good teams so far, and I think that’s helped us get better.
“We had a good summer, and we’re running things that fit what we do — and that’s different every year. There isn’t a magic offense or defense, it’s just making sure you get kids doing what they can.”
Partridge said he only expects the offense to improve going forward.
“We started off kind of slowly against Tuscaloosa but really picked things up against Starkville, so I think things will just keep getting better and better from here,” Partridge said.
Lamar (2-1) returns to action this week when it travels to Leake Academy, which will be the Raiders’ first MAIS District 2-5A opponent of the season.