After a winless season in 2016, Lyman Ward Military Academy finally got on the right side of the track.
But looking at the statistics, you’d never know it.
People’s Baptist had 504 offensive yards, compared to just 377 for the Fighting Rangers, and the Knights also had nearly as many first downs as Lyman Ward had offensive plays. But some huge touchdown passes from Garrett Davison to Jerry Bosworth, a kickoff returned for a score and a handful of big defensive stops, Lyman Ward earned a 54-42 victory on Thursday night.
“It’s awesome,” Lyman Ward first-year coach John McNeal said. “I came into a program that I kept hearing was not the best, and I didn’t let it affect me. I took what I know, my experiences and the boys’ strengths — half the team has never played a game before. Being able to coach these boys with as little time as I had to really practice with them, they’re doing awesome. This is a big victory for us. They needed it, I think, more than I needed it.”
The Knights (2-3) went shot-for-shot with Lyman Ward (1-1) throughout most of the game. It seemed like every time People’s Baptist scored, the Rangers had an immediate answer. But Lyman Ward finally pulled away nearing the end of the third quarter.
Davison connected with Bosworth for a 37-yard touchdown just three plays after the Knights had taken a two-point lead. It was the duo’s fourth score of the night.
Then Lyman Ward’s defense answered the call, as the Knights were pushing the ball downfield on two straight possessions in the fourth quarter.
“From Day 1, our defense has been super strong,” McNeal said. “Our defensive coach, Anthony Reaves, took them under his wing. I’m an offensive quarterback and receivers kind of coach, and he’s the defensive coach. He took them and just ran. He took the boys that have never played defense before and made them strong. They work together as a unit, and that’s more than I can ask for.”
Lyman Ward’s defense finished the game with nine tackles for a loss, including a 9-yard sack on fourth down and four TFLs from Davison.
Bosworth, who totaled four receiving touchdowns and two rushing, set the final score when he bullied his way in for a 7-yard score with just over two minutes remaining.
“Davison is a returning quarterback and with Bosworth, they just have a magnificent chemistry on the field,” McNeal said. “We run all the plays so that everybody every play gets a chance to touch the ball in practice, but when you have a quarterback and receiver duo that deadly, you gotta use them.”
Davison and Bosworth were the definition of lethal on Thursday night.
The pair connected five times for a total of 214 yards and four of those went for touchdowns. Most of the scores came when Davison found Bosworth 15 or 20 yards out, and the receiver went to the races.
“He’s one of my good buddies,” Davison said. “We talk, we hang out a lot, and we kind of have this connection. When he goes out, he’s my guy I’m throwing it to. If I’m in doubt of throwing it, it goes to Bosworth every time. He’s my guy.”
Probably the most incredible thing about Lyman Ward’s victory was its ability to break big plays. The Fighting Rangers needed just 25 total offensive plays to score 54 points, while People’s Baptist snapped the ball 70 times. Lyman Ward had only 11 plays that went for fewer than 10 yards and had seven go 25 yards or more.
“We have guys that can read plays and they can read the defense,” McNeal said. “I’ve got a coaching staff that can read from the sideline, too. We start taking notice of what plays they’re running, who they’re going to. They had a very small team, so it made it kind of easy for us to really choose. We really just see what they’re doing and adjust every game.”
Regardless of how Lyman Ward got the victory, Davison said it felt so good to finally get that monkey off the Rangers’ back.
“It’s so nice,” he said. “Last year, we had a coach that wasn’t fully into the team, but we have a good coaching staff this year. Everybody is playing their hearts out, so it’s a way different system than last year. We’re not the team that we were last year.”