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In Beechwood Rout of Lloyd, Both Coaches Give Teams Similar Message

Dan Weber writes a sports column for The River City News. Contact him at dweber3440@aol.com.

As counterintuitive as it would seem, both coaches had exactly the same message for their players after unbeaten Beechwood’s resounding 62-6 district win over Lloyd Memorial Thursday in Erlanger.

Forget the scoreboard. Or the running clock that started with 5:34 left in the first half, which was the exact time the Lloyd band arrived, with Beechwood up 40-0.

We’ve got improvements to make – and places to go, each coach told his team. This isn’t over yet.

Now those are completely different places in completely different directions. Beechwood (8-0, 2-0 district) is shooting for its second straight Class 2A state championship.

Lloyd (2-6, 0-2), with a win over Holy Cross next week, could finish out of the fourth spot in the district and maybe, depending on how things play out the rest of the way with Newport in the district, could even earn a home game in the playoffs, Lloyd Coach Kyle Niederman reminded his team. But whatever they do, the unspoken plea was to not lose another and finish fourth, “earn a 2-seed or a 3-seed” and have to face top-seed Beechwood in the opening 1-4 game.

“I don’t care what the scoreboard says,” Niederman told his players. “Get it out of your minds . . . don’t lose faith in yourselves . . . we care for you guys . . . and we’re going to see you at 8 a.m. (Friday morning).” All of “you,” he made it clear.

This rare Thursday night game was the result of not enough officials available for Friday night’s full schedule. The crowd filled about two-thirds of the stands – equally divided between the home team and the visiting Tigers.

With Beechwood not bringing its band or cheerleaders on the school night and the Lloyd band preparing for their contest season limiting musical play to just 10 minutes or so at halftime with a concert ensemble, this was a quiet affair. An occasional big Beechwood hit might enjoy an “oooohhhh,” but that was pretty much it.    

“Each week we have things to fix,” Beechwood senior safety/wide receiver/kick returner Parker Mason said, sounding like a coach himself, when asked what keeps his team sharp and in focus. At just five-foot-seven and 148 pounds, the quick little senior got Beechwood off on the right foot with a kickoff return to the Tiger 45 to set up an eight-play scoring drive that saw returning Mr. Football Cameron Hergott carry it for 42 of the 55 yards as he ran it in from the 11.

Then Mason took the next punt 55 yards for Beechwood’s second score against the slower-footed Juggernaut defenders and the romp was on. “They say I have a nose for the ball,” Parker said. “I’ll run all the way across the field to catch it.”

And then keep running. “This guy’s special,” Beechwood’s Rash said as he gave his speed back a big hug. “He could be anybody’s kid . . . “ and he could be the guy you’d be happy your daughter brought home . . . “ 

The speed mismatch in this one was evident from that first return. Is he the Tigers’ fastest player, Parker was asked. He looked back at Hergott, obligingly signing autographs for grade-schoolers behind him but waited until Hergott left before he answered. “I’m going to say yes,” he said. “Me and Cameron. I’m going to be confident and say me.”

Team speed was the big difference here. Beechwood had it all over the field. Back-to-back TD passes came next for Hergott as he hit Avery Courtney on a swing pass and watched him accelerate the final 50 yards past all 11 Lloyd defenders to make it 19-0 and then on a quick five-yard out, Mitch Berger took it the final 70 yards past the futile Jugg tacklers for another score.

Well, you get the picture. And yet, it’s not always been this way. Lloyd won two state titles – one in Class A in 1965, one in Class 3A in 1976 – before Beechwood had won even the first of its third-best-in-the-state 15 titles in 1984.

But Lloyd is the team just trying to stay alive here while Beechwood tries to get good enough to win it all again.

“We’re fortunate to be as talented as we are,” Rash says. “But we know we haven’t arrived . . . not until the last whistle has been blown.” That last whistle, the Tigers make clear, had better happen at the end of the state championship game.

“The biggest thing for us to get better at is the speed of the game,” Rash says. The way they’re trying to do that is to have speed everywhere you look. As they did in this game.

“We do have weapons,” Rash said. Yeah they do. Playing just a half, Hergott went with his arm and his receivers’ feet. He’d been averaging 191 yards a game passing and 115 rushing. Against Lloyd, he ran it in for that one TD on six carries for 64 yards. But in the air, Hergott was eight for 12 for 242 yards and five TDs. So that was right at his average of 306 yards running and passing.

Still, the Tigers have things to work on, as Mason Parker said. “Special teams, kickoffs, kickoff coverage . . . “ he said. And maybe they still do. Lloyd’s Quinton Jones opened the second half with an 85-yard kickoff return, the only time all night Beechwood’s speed failed the Tigers. But that was it.

--Dan Weber

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