ROGERSVILLE — Lauderdale County’s defense built something outstanding for coach Bob Grisham for his birthday.
Call it the Great Wall of Rogersville. Class 3A No. 10 Deshler had hard time getting past it in No. 4 Lauderdale County’s 21-7 win Friday night in the state quarterfinals.
The host Tigers, their defense defending a short field most of the second half, allowed 7 points on six Deshler drives inside the 20-yard line and stopped the visiting Tigers another time at the Lauderdale County 25.
Three of those stops came inside the 4-yard line, and three more came in the second half with Lauderdale County nursing a 14-7 lead.
Lauderdale County (12-1) advances to a semifinal rematch at Madison Academy (11-2) next week. The Mustangs won the previous meeting 24-10 in Week 2.
The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak for Deshler, which finishes the season 9-4.
Lauderdale County will make its first semifinal appearance since 1995 and is a win away from being the first school in the county to reach the state championship game since Rogers in 1989.
“Our defense, we talked about building a brick wall and not letting them in the end zone,” Grisham said. “Our defense did a great job of standing up and not letting them score even though they were put in some bad situations. When you get the ball (offensively) inside your own 5-yard line, you have to be able to bring it out, so we’ve got some work to do there before Madison Academy.”
The most impressive goal-line stand came with Lauderdale County stopping Deshler on six straight defensive plays inside the 6-yard line to preserve the 7-point lead in the third quarter.
Deshler quarterback Justin Cantrell connected with tight end B.J. Bailey for a 56-yard pass to the Lauderdale County 6. But two snaps later, Lauderdale County forced a Terrance Byrd fumble at the 1 and recovered it.
After a three-and-out on the ensuing offensive series, Lauderdale County had a punt from its own 9 blocked by Blake Rivera, setting up Deshler at the 4.
Deshler netted 3 yards on the following four offensive plays, turning it over on downs when Byrd was stopped for a 2-yard gain to the 1 on fourth down.
Lauderdale County also intercepted a deep pass at its own 8-yard line in the fourth quarter.
In all, Deshler’s six promising non-scoring drives ended at the 20 (turnover on downs) after getting as close as the 4-yard line, the 25 (lost fumble), 1 (fumble), 1 (turnover on downs), 9 (turnover on downs) and 10 (turnover on downs).
Deshler was flagged five times for 25 yards in the red zone.
“We just couldn’t get it in the end zone,” Deshler coach John Mothershed said. “When you’re given opportunities, you’ve got to capitalize on it, and we didn’t.
“I think the game was a little closer than the score showed. I’m really proud of our kids this year. They showed great resilience. I really couldn’t be any more proud of our defense coming out in the second half.”
Deshler’s defensive front showed more toughness than it did in the 35-21 regular-season loss at Lauderdale County, holding its host to four runs longer than 10 yards, three of those by quarterback Samuel Grisham in the second half.
Grisham delivered the back-breaker, though, ripping off a 54-yarder to the Deshler 27 with 3:28 to play. That set up C.J. Jackson’s 6-yard scoring run to make it a two-score game with 1:51 remaining.
Samuel Grisham finished with a game-high 128 yards rushing on 20 carries with a 1-yard touchdown run that gave Lauderdale County a 14-0 second-quarter lead.
Jackson added 110 yards and touchdown runs of 70 and 6 yards on 15 carries.
Cantrell lead Deshler with 204 yards on 12-of-20 passing with an interception. Byrd netted 88 yards rushing on 22 carries with the 3-yard touchdown.
Four players finished with 10 tackles each for Lauderdale County: Tyler Smith, Austin Campbell, Hunter Haney and D.J. Simmons.
“Our defense came up big and really bailed us out when we weren’t doing much offensively,” Samuel Grisham said. “It was huge to hold them without points in the second half with their backs against the wall. They came to play.”
Bryan App can be reached at 256-740-5730 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @bappster on Twitter.