It’s the same problem that’s plagued the Poets all season. No matter what the score is heading in to halftime, Sidney Lanier has struggled all season when the third quarter starts.
Thursday night’s 38-6 loss to Central-Phenix City was no exception.
The Poets went into the break trailing the Red Devils 10-6, but after allowing an opening drive score, and throwing two interceptions in five offensive plays, Lanier found themselves down 31-6 with just over five minutes left in the third.
“Like I’ve said all year long, just trying to find that mental switch,” Lanier coach C.J. Harris said. “We come out in the first half — give every team we play a great first half — and just coming out in the third quarter, it’s like a five-minute stretch where we just can’t get ourselves back mentally prepared. We can’t believe that we’re in some of the games that we’re in…
“I’m still trying to find out what it takes to come out after halftime for those first five minutes.”
Central opened the second half with nine straight run plays, capping it off with a 9-yard touchdown run. Tristian Buyck then threw an interception on Lanier’s first play. The Red Devils capitalized by punching in a short touchdown run two plays later.
It was déjà vu on the Poets’ next drive. Buyck’s pass bounced off his receiver’s hands and led to another interception. Central’s three-star prospect Traveon Samuel made the Poets pay with a 29 yard touchdown run two plays later.
“If we could just get out of the mindset that when something negative happens, it’s not the end of the world,” Harris said. “OK, something happened, but we’ve just got to continue to play. Like I said, until we get ourselves mentally there, we’re going to have to fight a lot of battles.”
Lanier outgained Central in the first half and ran for 81 yards, but the Central defense stuffed the ground game, holding the Poets to just 18 yards in the second half.
Buyck finished 9-for-28 passing for 92 yards and the two interceptions. He also ran 19 times for 95 yards and a score.
Samuel had eight carries for 78 yards and a touchdown to go with four catches for 44 yards.
The Poets fell to 0-8, 0-6 in Class 6A, Region 3 and mathematically eliminated themselves from being able to match last season’s 3-7 mark. Lanier plays G.W. Carver next Friday.
“As long as the kids stay positive and the kids continue coming to work,” Harris said. “Me and the coaches talk, we’re not giving up on these seniors; we’re not giving up on the older guys. We’re going to continue to do what we do. The biggest thing is to make sure that we don’t have any injuries to the younger guys and stay focused and ready to play.”