As Section ran out of the field house Friday night to take the field, the Lions resembled the team Chris Hammon expected to put on the field each week.
And the final result resembled what Hammon believed his team was capable of coming into this season.
Bolstered by the return of several players returning from injuries, Section posted its first win of the season with a 28-19 Class 2A Region 7 victory over Ider Friday night.
Section outscored Ider 20-6 in the second half, snapping a six-game losing streak with a Homecoming victory that kept the Lions’ playoff hopes alive.
“It’s huge just for morale,” Hammon said. “We’ve got a good football team and we’re getting back healthy at a good time. I’m proud of them, getting a win, especially on Homecoming, that’s special for them. Just to get that first win, build some momentum, get a spark back. It’s big for us. We’ve got a lot of issues, penalties, undisciplined stuff we’ve got to take care of. But like I told them, as ugly as some of the things were, we got a much-needed win and got our spirits up. I hope that catches fire for us. It keeps us in the hunt. That’s one down, three more to go. That’s kind of the way we’re looking at it. Next week, next game.”
Section (1-6, 1-3) has region games remaining with Whitesburg Christian, North Sand Mountain and Pisgah.
The Lions overcame 14 penalties for 88 yards and three fumbles during Friday’s win, mainly thanks to an effective rushing attack — Section ran for 239 yards on 42 carries – and a defensive effort that limited Ider (2-5, 0-4) to only 187 total yards, 108 of which was rushing yardage. Section also forced three turnovers.
Section turnovers helped Ider built a 13-0 first-half lead. A high snap led to an Ider recovery and eventually Ben Smith’s 1-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter, and another high step led directly to a touchdown when Hornets’ defensive lineman Landon Traylor recovered it in the end zone early in the second quarter.
But the Lions countered with Jaylan McCarver’s 18-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion to pull within 13-8 at halftime before taking the lead on their first possession of the second half. The Lions drove 52 yards on nine plays to take a 16-13 lead when Connor Sronvi caught a 6-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal — Sronvi shook off an Ider defender at the 2-yard line to reach the end zone — and Williams caught an 18-yard two-point conversion pass following a dead ball 15-yard penalty following the touchdown.
Section pushed its lead to 22-13 with 9:58 remaining on Jr. Walker’s tackle-breaking, 53-yard touchdown run with 9:58 remaining. Midway through the fourth quarter, Sronvi recovered an Ider fumble and returned to the Hornets 19-yard line, setting up Cameron Summerford’s 4-yard touchdown run that put the Lions in front 28-13 with 3:45 remaining.
A 37-yard pass from Ider quarterback Dylan Grant to Zion Finnerty led to Smith’s 11-yard touchdown run, but Smith slipped on the two-point conversion, leaving the Hornets’ deficit at 28-19 with 3:02 to play. Ider never got it back as Section pounded out runs of 6, 7, 4 and 11 yards to run out the clock.
“In the first half, we stopped ourselves on every drive with penalties and fumbles,” Hammon said. “We challenged them at halftime to cut all that stuff out and be more disciplined and we were somewhat and we were able to finish drives.”
McCarver finished 3-of-4 passing for 59 yards and one touchdown pass while rushing for a career-high 110 yards on 13 carries. Walker picked up 90 yards on nine carries, Summerford added 50 yards on nine carries and Brayden Williams, who also had an interception and a fumble recovery, had 29 yards on eight carries. Summerford and Williams were among the returning Lions back from being sidelined by injuries.
“We had several guys that just stepped up,” Jaylan McCarver is a guy that doesn’t get talked about a lot, but he’s as tough a kid as I’ve been around. Tough, had a couple of runs where he’s dragging people. He fights every Friday night. Jr. Walker is all heart and winner. Cam coming back, you see the difference he makes offensively and defensively. Brayden was able to play the whole game. We did a pretty good job up front. We are still down a few (players), but we feel like we’re getting back close to that Week 1 team.”