The Cougars moved to 2-0 on the season with a big win over Lennard last Friday night
After pulling away in the fourth quarter for a 22-6 win over Sumter last week, Durant scored early and often as they powered past Lennard in a huge 49-12 victory over the Longhorns on Friday night.
Lennard received the opening kickoff and flew down the field with a deep pass down the right sideline to Ha’keem Monroe. Then with a goal-to-go opportunity early, Durant’s defense stood tall and forced the Longhorns to deploy their field goal unit on fourth down. With some trickery early, Lennard rolled out of the field goal formation and fired a pass to the back corner of the end zone but couldn’t convert and turned the ball over on downs.
Durant took over inside of their own 10-yard line but gained just one first down before punting back to Lennard on their first drive of the night.
Once again Lennard was on the move, this time converting what seemed like an endless number of third downs en route to another scoring chance from Durant’s eight-yard line. On third and goal quarterback Gavin Henley connected with Monroe again, this time for six. The extra point was blocked and Lennard held a 6-0 lead, but it wouldn’t last long.
On the ensuing drive, the tandem of quarterback Marcus Migele and running back Calub Connell put together a number of strong runs that ultimately resulted in a one-yard touchdown from Connell, his first of multiple scores on the evening.
Connell was a quarterback on Durant’s junior varsity team last year and was originally written in as a safety on their varsity defense this year, however he has been a huge part of the Cougars’ offense through two weeks in place of projected starting running back Alex Daley who remains out with an injury.
Through two weeks, Connell has totaled 279 rushing yards and four touchdowns, with 17 carries going for 124 rushing yards and two touchdowns against the Longhorns.
“I’m just so proud of the way that they’re all playing,” head coach Claybo Varnum said. “The way Calub is playing, the way Marcus is running the football, everybody is being real selfless right now and giving me everything that they’ve got. We’re a little light, we’ve only got about 40 guys, but every day they show up and they’re getting after it so I’m proud of them.”
Varnum said that Durant hopes to have Daley back on the field next week, pointing to the thunder and lightning approach that the Cougars’ could soon have in their backfield rotation between Daley and Connell.
Lennard struggled fielding the following kickoff and were forced to start their third drive backed up near their own goal line.
The Durant front seven broke through and defensive end Leo Tabakovic forced the Longhorns into an intentional grounding penalty from their end zone, resulting in a safety and a 9-6 lead for the Cougars.
Henley was injured on the play and Tyler Russell took over the quarterback position for the remainder of the game for Lennard.
From that point forward the scales began to tip heavily in Durant’s favor. Wide receiver Jeremiah Gines returned the safety kick across midfield, Connell broke free for a big gain to around the Lennard 30-yard line and Miguele then escaped the pocket and took off for a long touchdown run with less than a minute remaining in the half, putting the Cougars up 22-6.
Lennard had a chance to answer back but were immediately moved backward with a strip sack from Tabakovic, recovered by the Longhorns. On the next play Tabakovic got to Monroe again with a big hit, leading to an errant pass that was intercepted by safety Luther Scarlett — the first of two picks on the night for the sophomore defensive back.
As noted by the aforementioned plays, Tabakovic was a force up front for Durant on Friday night, finishing second on the team with eight total tackles — trailing just senior linebacker Jacob Reed with 11 — on top of two sacks and three tackles for loss.
With 5.9 seconds remaining in the half, Durant had time for one last play. Miguele dropped back and fired a deep pass down the left sideline for Gines, hitting his receiver in stride for another touchdown and a 28-6 lead as time expired in the second quarter.
Miguele had a great opener on the ground against Sumner, totaling 85 rushing yards on 15 carries, but had struggles passing the ball with just one completion on five attempts for 21 yards. Friday against Lennard however, he proved dangerous in both roles. Miguele finished the contest with 11 carries for 111 yards and a rushing touchdown while completing six of his nine pass attempts for 130 yards and two more touchdowns through the air.
The touchdown reception was Gines’ second of the game, finishing the contest with three catches for 92 yards and two scores.
“I’ll tell you, we have to get Jeremiah the ball,” Varnum said. “He’s one of our best athletes on the team, he can run, and we knew that if we had a good one-on-one matchup we [want to] get it… Marcus to Jeremiah, they’ve been doing that for a long time. They’ve been friends for a long time so to see them finally connect this year will build some confidence and take us forward in the season.”
In the second half Durant continued to pull away, led by another touchdown from Connell as well as scores from senior Quentin Johnson and junior Zaevion Jordan, keeping the pedal down as they raced out to an insurmountable lead and a dominating 49-12 win.
Scarlett added his second interception in the second half and freshman Jayden Cornelius added an interception of his own on the last play of the game, his second pick in two weeks. Thrown right into the fire as a freshman, it’s been a quick start to high school football for Cornelius, all coming off of a lone preseason game in which he racked up two picks with the second string defense as well.
“We love [Cornelius],” Varnum said. “His personality is really starting to come out. He’s one of the only freshmen that rides with us on varsity and the boys are starting to get a bond with him, he’s going to be special.
The Cougars played complimentary football on Friday, with a number of big plays on both sides of the ball, with a number of big plays made by every class, from freshman to senior, and moved to 2-0 on the season.
“I couldn’t have predicted it,” Varnum said about the big win. “We knew that Lennard could throw the football so well, Gavin Henley over there is a three-year starter and we have an inexperienced secondary, tonight was the second start for three of those guys back there. So I’m really proud of them, really proud to come away with some turnovers and again, I’m proud of our offense. We continue to make mistakes but we continue to overcome them. I told the guys at half-time to not let our foot off the throttle because a good team like this will come back and get you. So for them to continue to press in the second half was special.
Durant will look to continue their strong start to the 2021 season next week as they return home for a matchup against the Brandon Eagles.