Ever since Lehigh’s season-opening 28-0 loss to Dunbar last week, the Lightning have sat through what seems like a non-stop film festival featuring the lowlights of a game they’d rather forget.
Chris Curry and Jacquez Brown could only shake their heads at every fumble, every missed assignment and every mental error.
“We’re way better than that,” Brown, the senior middle linebacker, said.
To wait nearly 10 months to show last season’s 3-6 flop was an aberration and then put that product on the field in a huge rivalry game was difficult. But, believe it or not, the last week of waiting to redeem themselves against another highly-touted team in South Fort Myers on Friday at Wolfpack Stadium was more difficult.
Curry, the junior running back, may have taken the loss against a group of players he grew up with the hardest because he admitted he made the classic mistake of taking the Tigers lightly.
Meanwhile, Brown presented a strong front saying the loss “stung just a little bit.” His face told a different story as he discussed 48 minutes worth of mistakes.
There’s no shame in falling to the Tigers, who are now ranked No. 9 in the Class 5A Associated Press poll. It was the fashion in which they lost — taking four sacks, surrendering two safeties and managing just 113 yards of offense — that hurt the most.
Lehigh coach James Chaney took the blame for all of it.
“My job is to make sure they are mentally prepared, and they weren’t,” he said. “Hindsight is always 20/20. You think to yourself, ‘What did we overlook?’ Sometimes it’s hard to make adjustments in the heat of the battle. That’s what non-district games are for, though. You get a chance to see what you can do better.
“It could be a blessing in disguise.”
The Lightning put together an 18-7 win over North Port in the preseason before weather canceled its opener with Palmetto Ridge.
Chaney and company are trying to put the 5-game losing streak that derailed 2015 behind them.
A win over a 2-0 South team that has been shaky at times this season could do a lot.
“This week means everything,” Curry said.
And the 6-foot, 200-pound versatile back is willing to do anything in his power for a win. That includes carrying 30 times if need be.
Against Dunbar, he received just 13 carries and gained 82 yards as the offensive line failed to make headway against the Tigers’ front seven. Chaney maintains the offense will take what the South defense gives them.
If that means Curry gets 30 carries, so be it. If he has to serve as a decoy, that’s fine too.
“That’s the great thing about Chris,” Chaney said of the back with offers from North Carolina and Western Kentucky. “He fits into any system. If I ask him to play guard, he will.”
Defensively, Lehigh will have to focus on limiting the big plays from South’s stable of running backs, which includes seniors E’Quan Dorris and Riley Ware.
“We need to make them go east and west,” said Brown, who is picking up steam on the recruiting trail with offers from UNC-Charlotte and Toledo.
South junior receiver Jeshaun Jones emerged as another big-play threat over the last two weeks. His 82-yard touchdown off a swing pass against Island Coast and a punt return for a score against Cape Coral were game changers.
“You can’t allow that type of stuff even in Pop Warner,” Chaney said. “You can’t give extra chances to teams like Dunbar and South.”
With the biggest improvement coming from the first game to the second, Brown is convinced better days are ahead for the Lightning.
“Every day is a new day,” he said. “Every moment is a new moment. Every Friday is a new Friday.”
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