Game of the Week: Livingston at Sumter County

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 27, 2005

One team enters this Friday’s final game of the season 2-7. Their opponent is 3-6. But one of them is going to enter the off-season feeling pretty good about themselves regardless.

That’s the way season-ending rivalry games work, and perhaps no season-ending rivalry game in the area means as much to the participants as Sumter County vs. Livingston. Maybe it’s not quite one of the schools’ ultra-intense meetings on the hardwood in fans’ eyes, but it doesn’t mean there’s not plenty at stake for both teams.

“It’s something all the kids here look forward to,” says Sumter Co. head coach Stacey Watters. “They want to get to high school and play against and beat Livingston. That’s one of the high points of their lives.”

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Livingston head coach Scottie Jones agrees.

“It means everything to them,” he says. “This is the biggest game of the year for both schools…You close out one season with a win and start the next season on a good note.”

Which of the teams hits that note will largely depend on which team can negate the other’s biggest offensive strength. For Livingston, that strength is a bruising running game spearheaded by senior lineman Derick Lee and boosted by several dangerous backs including Mario Newell, Rodger Collins, Christopher Gaines, and Dominique Childs.

Watters says it will be a big challenge for his defensive line. Like Sumter as a whole, linemen Deon Green, Dale Nixon, Larry Smith, and Cameron Ezell rely more on their speed than shoving their opponents around.

“We’re at a size disadvantage. How we overcome that and get past that, is what I think we have to do to win,” Watters says. “We’re a little small, but we’re quick. We have to get in there and hang in with them.”

For his part, Jones isn’t expecting his team to just show up and bowl the Wildcats over.

“They have a tough defense,” he says. “They’ll definitely intend to take our running game away.”

For the Cougars, the defensive game plan is about slowing down the Wildcats’ speed. With athletes like quarterback Cordarrin Wilson, running back Corderro Law, and All-State basketball player Larry Foster at wide receiver, SCHS has the capability of springing the big play at any time.

“We have to try to contain them. They’re very athletic,” Jones says. “Larry Foster’s one of the most athletic players in the region. We’ll spread our ends a bit and work on our underneath coverage. We do respect their talent.”

Watters says his team will depend more on its straight-ahead running game than any high-flying trickery.

“We’re going to line up and run at them. We’ve got to get our running backs involved,” he says, referring to Law and up-and-comer Dale Nixon.

Watters said doing that, and pulling off the victory will be more difficult that some might think. But the reward for doing so is substantial.

“Livingston’s got a pretty good football team. I think they’re a little bit underrated,” he said. “We can just hope we come out with a victory…You always like to end the season on a positive note.”

As a former Sumter Co. staff member, Jones understands the rivalry better than most and wishes his opponent good luck.

“This is a tough game for me,” he says.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday in York.