Adam Rowson and his Lugoff-Elgin teammates will probably have their share of nerves before Friday’s playoff game against Beaufort.
After all, none of the players on the Demons roster has played in a playoff game before.
“It is going to be a little nervous, but it is exciting to be in the playoffs and show people we can do better things,” Rowson said.
The Demons are tied with Brookland-Cayce for the second-biggest turnaround in the Midlands this season. Lugoff-Elgin went 1-10 in Matt Campbell’s first season, but are 5-5 this year, and finished second in Region 6-4A following a win over Crestwood in the season finale. It’s L-E’s first playoff appearance since 2010, and the Demons haven’t won a postseason game since 2009.
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“For the kids to experience playoff atmosphere and the community to experience it is huge. They have done nothing but support me since I took over,” said Campbell, a former South Carolina standout. “(The) kids have bought in and have fun while they are doing it. They’ve started to see the rewards of their work and it is building confidence. Going out and winning a few games got them confidence.”
That confidence wasn’t there when Campbell took over the program last year. L-E hadn’t won a game since 2013, but snapped its 18-game losing streak against West Florence. That turned out to be the Demons’ only win last season but Campbell still was pleased with the progress he saw in his players and knew the potential was there to better things this season. That momentum continued into the team’s offseason workouts, where numbers were up and the players had strong showings in state strength meets and in the summer for 7-on-7 drills.
“Biggest thing is our work ethic,” Rowson said. “Coaches have made us more disciplined now and that helped us achieve things this season.”
L-E started off 2-1 before losing three straight games, but the Demons finished by winning three of their last four, including the 28-27 win over Crestwood when Joe Summers blocked an extra point with 1:23 left to clinch a home playoff game for L-E.
Rowson, a linebacker and North-South All-Star game selection, is one of the leaders on defense along with Ahmad Bryant, Alex Irby and Cam Payne. Offensively, the Demons rely on running back Rahmel Burton and their strong offensive line, led by Furman commit Elliott Campbell. L-E averages 218.3 yards rushing per game.
“Biggest thing is changing their expectations and raising their expectations to what we had as coaches because we believed in them,” Campbell said. “But they didn’t have anything to show for what they have done. Now they are starting to get rewards, and being in the playoffs is another step in the right direction.”
A look at teams in the Midlands football teams with the biggest turnarounds from last season: