Lazenby does in Bessemer

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 18, 2001

Sports Editor

Monroe’s K.J. Lazenby rushed for two touchdowns and picked off Bessemer’s Casey Howard twice to lead the Volunteers over the Rebels, 33-12, in the AISA’s Class AAA Championship game held at Memorial Stadium on Friday.

Lazenby had touchdown runs of 82 and 60 yards in the game. The Monroe senior’s first interception of the day came early in the second quarter and set up a one-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jeff Wasden, giving the Vols a 14-0 lead.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Lazenby’s 82-yard scamper put Monroe up 20-0 with 5:06 left in the first half.

"We knew coming in that he (Lazenby) was a great ball player," said Bessemer head coach Mark Freeman. "And they (Monroe) do a lot of things to get him the ball when they need to get him the ball. No. 7 (fullback Tyler Dawson) carries the load for them, but when you jump up on him, they get the ball to K. J. They’re by far the best team in the state this year."

The Rebels’ defense, which was ranked tops in points allowed prior to Friday’s game, had a hard time contending with Monroe’s Wing-T rushing attack led by Dawson and Lazenby.

But what got Bessemer in trouble from the start, according to Freeman, was a simple case of "nerves."

The Rebels received the opening kickoff and went backwards. Howard was sacked to start the game then a clipping penalty pushed Bessemer back inside its own 10-yard line. Facing second and 24, a big pass play from Howard to Brett Johnson was negated because the Rebels had an ineligible receiver downfield.

Monroe’s only turnover of the day came following Howard’s quick kick from the one-yard line on third and nine. Lazenby coughed up the ball on his first carry and Howard recovered for Bessemer at the Vols’ 41-yard line.

But still, the Rebels couldn’t use that good field position to their advantage.

Following an illegal procedure penalty against the Rebels, Johnson had to chase down a fumbled pitch by Howard. A short hand-off to Kellan Burt was snuffed behind the line by the Vols’ defense. Bessemer had to punt on fourth and 30.

Lazenby and Dawson then moved the ball down the field, where Wasden scored on a one-yard plunge with 2:35 left in the first quarter to put Monroe up 6-0.

"It was just nerves," Freeman said about his team’s poor start. "We’ve got a couple of ninth graders that are starting for us. We’re a young football team, but that’s not taking anything away from Monroe. They’re a great team. We were just a little nervous coming out of the shoot and they’re an experienced offense. We asked our players not to come out and let nervousness take over, but maybe we talked about it too much."

The Rebels fought back to score a touchdown just before halftime. Howard broke a long kick return to the Monroe 15-yard line following Lazenby’s first score. Facing a fourth and two at the seven-yard line, Howard pitched to Johnson on the option for the score with 2:31 remaining in the second.

But Lazenby opened the second half by going 60-yards for the touchdown, just three minutes into the third quarter, and gave the Volunteers a 27-6 lead.

Lazenby picked off his second pass on the Rebels’ next drive and, on the Vols’ ensuing possession, carried the ball 38-yards to the Bessemer 11. A few plays later, Dawson crashed through from five-yard’s out for the Volunteers’ final score of the game.

Howard scored on an eight-yard touchdown run with 4:49 left in the game for the Rebels.

Bessemer finishes the year at 11-2.

For Monroe (13-0), Friday’s win was the first state title for the Volunteers since 1979.