BEN HUR — Before Friday night’s season opener with J.I. Burton at Five Star Stadium, Lee High rolled out the cannon. Then the Generals brought out the horse.
When the game finally got under way, Generals coach Terry Martin rolled out his horses. Then he got out the cannon.
Lee High had two running backs on the verge of 100 yards rushing apiece as the Generals opened the 2013 campaign with a 24-6 win over the Raiders.
“They believe in themselves now. All they needed was that first win,” said Martin, whose team’s opening possession pounded on Norton for 11 plays, eroding six minutes before Houston Sage initiated scoring with a 26-yard field goal with 4:15 in the first quarter.
Sage, the quarterback and Lee’s most known offensive quantity coming into the season, didn’t make a big impression with his arm until hitting Justin Gilliam with a 41-yard scoring strike with 5:59 remaining in the first half.
“That was the plan. We wanted to impose our will and pop up and throw when we wanted to,” said Sage, who later hit Gilliam with a 31-yard scoring strike for the 24-0 lead with 9:39 remaining in the third quarter.
Sage, who gave up a pick to J.I. Burton’s Kevin VanNess in the third quarter, had another 41-yard TD throw called back in the fourth on a 5-yard procedure flag.
The big revelation was Lee High’s rushing attack. Poised behind a big, punishing front, running backs Cody Haynes and Ray Avery provided a contrast in running styles yet rushed for 97 yards apiece.
The tall, lanky Haynes, who scored a 6-yard touchdown run with 7:52 showing in the second quarter, bulldozed through the Raiders for 18 carries. The smaller, compact Avery scrambled around Lee’s big blockers for 18 carries like a fox running through the henhouse.
On the dark side, Lee High put the football on the ground four times, losing it twice.
“We’ll have to do a better job taking care of the football. I thought our offensive line was the big difference in this ballgame. And our defensive line,” said Martin, who added former head coach Tim Johnson to his staff this season.
The execution of Lee High’s defensive game plan had just as much to do with sealing Norton’s fate. The Generals loaded up the box and cut off the jet sweeps, containing the Raiders to 81 yards rushing.
The game was basically a case of innocence getting run over by experience. Hard lessons were learned by the young Raiders.
Burton didn’t break its scoring drought until Isaac Davis broke the plane on a 13-yard TD run with 6:43 remaining in the game.
Norton sophomore quarterback Tra Adams had a rocky start, but got smoother as the game progressed. He threw for 67 yards. While he had a few passes deflected and swatted away, the Generals failed to pick him off.
“I thought early on he played like a sophomore, and he wasn’t getting much time,” said Raiders coach Jimbo Adams. “Our kids did what we asked them to do at halftime. They played a little tougher defense and they protected a little better.”