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Scott's Branch beats Hemingway to set up rematch with C.E. Murray

By J. SCOTT SEWELL
jscott@theitem.com
Posted 11/12/19

Few people would've likely picked Scott's Branch High School to win a road game in the 1A football state playoffs this season after the Eagles opened the year losing four straight games by an average margin of nearly 40 points. That's exactly what …

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Scott's Branch beats Hemingway to set up rematch with C.E. Murray

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Few people would've likely picked Scott's Branch High School to win a road game in the 1A football state playoffs this season after the Eagles opened the year losing four straight games by an average margin of nearly 40 points. That's exactly what happened on Friday though when the Eagles traveled to Hemingway and beat the Tigers 38-7.

Scott's Branch last won a playoff game back in 2011, that coming in Leonard Johnson's first tour as the Scott's Branch head coach. Johnson, who left after the 2012 season, returned this year and the win breaks a string of five straight playoff losses, including two to Hemingway.

It's been a long road this season for a young Eagles team that's been tasked with learning a whole new offensive system, but Friday's win served as vindication that the process is working.

"I think they've become comfortable with the system," said Johnson, whose team improved to 3-8 with the victory. "The guys executed offensively and defensively, and we did what we had to do, win by at least one point to move on."

It's the first taste of success for a team that entered Friday's game confident against the winless Tigers.

"They expected to win, they came out to win, and then they won," said Johnson. "That's a good feeling, when you get a lot of young guys having that feeling. They just went out and executed the game plan."

Teams that face that Eagles know what to expect at this point with Hammer offense, and Johnson has spent the season getting his inexperienced team to understand that's OK.

"They had that look on their face of 'Why are you still doing it? everyone knows what we're gonna do,' " Johnson said. "But, I think everybody is beginning to understand the system, and why we had to spend a lot of time (early on) running those base plays."

Next up for Scott's Branch is its Region IV foe and champion, C.E. Murray. CEM just beat the Eagles 38-12 two weeks ago in the final game of the regular season.

C.E. Murray is coached by Brian Smith, who left Scott's Branch in May to take the job at C.E. Murray, where he had previously been the head coach, thus opening the door for Johnson's return to Scott's Branch.

Smith led CEM to a 7-2 regular-season record.

Johnson expects Smith to stick with what worked two weeks ago when the teams meet on Friday.

"They're going to do the same thing they've been doing all year," said Johnson. "Last time they played us, they decimated our line, both offensively and defensively, and if we don't have an answer for that it's going to be more of the same."

Scott's Branch jumped out to an early lead in the first contest before C.E. Murray took control. CEM dominated the line of scrimmage, racking up 272 yards rushing along with five rushing touchdowns.

"We have to learn it's a fight for 48 minutes, and I think they saw it, but they just have to learn how to grow in that situation," said Johnson. "If we don't control their line, we're going to be in trouble -- it's going to be a long night for us. We've got to control the line of scrimmage."