Lexington finished its first season under coach Josh Stepp with an impressive 10-3 record, but the ending left a sour taste for many Wildcat supporters.
A 63-21 loss to Byrnes in the second round of the Class 4A, Div. I playoffs Friday night ended the season, but the manner in the way things played out disturbs Stepp. Late-game penalties and a last-second touchdown by the Rebels marred the loss.
Tempers flared in the closing minutes. Lexington was flagged for three personal fouls late in a game that was emotionally charged on both sides. The Rebels also had fourth-quarter personal foul penalties.
Then to add fuel to the fire, the Rebels called a timeout with 27 seconds left, then threw a 12-yard touchdown pass for the final margin.
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“Late in the game, both sides got personal fouls,” Stepp said Saturday. “We addressed it with our team and I believe he did with his kids. We did address the personal foul situation.
“It got chippy on both sides and we handled it the best we could. In the fourth quarter, he called a timeout to throw a touchdown pass. I don’t think there’s any place (for that) in high school football. I think that sends the wrong message. He said he did it in retaliation to the personal fouls but there were fouls on both sides.”
“I told him it was a classless move.”
Byrnes coach Bobby Bentley told the Spartanburg Herald-Journal after the game that he was trying to protect his players.
“The players said to me, ‘Coach, let’s call timeout and score.’ I felt like you do what you feel like you have to do to protect the guys,” Bentley said. “I felt like we got our guys out there handling themselves the right way, the way the game is to be played.
“Their coaches say things that probably shouldn’t have been said, and our coaches took exception to that,” Bentley said. “We’ve got to worry about our football team, and that’s what we do. I think with the backups in, when they started getting first downs, they really got some energy and brought some life to the team.”
That caused the teams to leave the field without a post-game handshake. Lexington players and coaches got a police escort off the field. But Stepp said the police escort was part of the pregame and halftime as well, since Lexington had to walk through the Byrnes home crowd to get to their locker room.
But Stepp defended his decision and said he would do the same thing again.
“I went across the field and shook (Bentley’s) hand,” Stepp said. “I voiced my displeasure without any vulgarity or foul language.
“Then his coaches heard what I had to say and they started yelling at my coaches, and at that time I thought the best interest for Lexington High School was to exit the field so I took my kids off the field.”