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The Lightning scored two second-half touchdowns, including one on a 70-yard pass from quarterback Tyler Raines to wide receiver Seavon Watkins with 43 seconds left in regulation, to hold off a late push from Mt. Hebron and earn a 12-6 victory. After only winning once all season last fall, it was a huge confidence builder to dig down and pull one out to open the year according to Long Reach coach Jamie Willis.

It's a new season and Long Reach's football team showcased just how much difference a year can make on opening night Friday in front of a raucous home crowd.

The Lightning scored two second-half touchdowns, including one on a 70-yard pass from quarterback Tyler Raines to wide receiver Seavon Watkins with 43 seconds left in regulation, to hold off a late push from Mt. Hebron and earn a 12-6 victory. After only winning once all season last fall, it was a huge confidence builder to dig down and pull one out to open the year according to Long Reach coach Jamie Willis.

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"It just feels great … our kids have been working so hard. We just emphasized playing for each other and playing together," Willis said. "The last couple years we've been through some tough times — the first year being new and then last year a lot of injuries. But this year, I think the kids believe and tonight was a perfect example of that."

The game was a story of two halves, as neither team got much offense going in the opening half. In fact, Long Reach (1-0) and Mt. Hebron (0-1) combined for less than 100 total yards of offense in the first two quarters and each team reached the opponent's red zone just once.

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The score was deadlocked at 0-0 going to intermission.

Things didn't immediately get much better for the Lightning, which got the opening kickoff of the second half, on their first drive of the third quarter. The team was set to punt inside its own 20 after going three-and-out.

But after juggling the long snap on fourth down, punter Ryan Menusan pulled the ball down and ended up scampering 16 yards for a first down. Mt. Hebron coach Phil Zacharias said that ended up being one of the biggest plays of the game.

"We had them punting the ball and the guy puts the ball on the ground, but we don't tackle him. That was fourth and 15 and we don't make a play," Zacharias said. "We gave them life and then all of a sudden they convert a couple more third downs and we just never could get off the field."

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That opening Long Reach drive of the second half ended up lasting over 10 minutes and resulted in the first points of the evening, as Tyler Winbush scampered around the right edge for a four-yard touchdown with 1:28 left in the third quarter.

"They always tell me to use my speed because I'm one of the fastest people in the county, so when I saw the block I was like I just have to trust myself that I was going to be able to get around the edge," Winbush said. "It was an amazing feeling getting that one."

Long Reach missed the ensuing two-point try but had itself a lead that seemed for awhile like it might be enough to earn the victory.

Mt. Hebron, which got solid efforts on the ground all night from quarterback Ricky Williams and starting running back Brennen White, kept moving the ball in the first three quarters only to stall once across midfield. It wasn't until the late stages of the fourth quarter that the tide finally changed.

After driving into Long Reach territory once again, Williams called his own number on a quarterback draw from the 26-yard line and sprinted through the defense and into the end zone to tie the game with 2:25 left in the final quarter. A missed extra point left things squared up at 6-6.

But just as Long Reach seemed to have lost its momentum, Raines led his team on the game-winning drive. He completed a short pass over the middle to Menusan (4 catches, 44 yards) to get things going and then fired a strike to Watkins for the deciding play of the game.

Watkins caught the pass in traffic, split two defenders and then sprinted into the end zone.

"(The play) was Indiana, so that's where I run up the seam and he throws me a quick pass up the middle. Coach had seen that it was open, so he called the play … we had a great play, he made a great throw and I caught it and I scored," Watkins said. "I wanted it really bad."

After Long Reach again missed its two-point try, Mt. Hebron got the ball back one final time with a chance to tie or win the game. Ultimately, after a couple incompletions, Williams had his deep pass down the middle on fourth down get intercepted by Long Reach's Greg Benton to seal the game.

"Give Long Reach the credit tonight. They did what they had to do to win," Zacharias said. "They were at home, they took advantage of their home crowd and the good feelings that go with it being the first game, and they made a few more plays than we did."

As the final seconds ticked off the clock following one last kneel down, the Lightning stormed the field to celebrate.

"It means a lot because we've been working hard all summer and been trying to make a difference for this school," Winbush said. "This has been a bad look for us these past two years, but it's a new season and we want to prove we are a different team."

Long Reach 12, Mt. Hebron 6

1st Quarter – No Scoring

2nd Quarter – No Scoring

3rd Quarter – LR – Winbush 4-yard run, 1:28.

4th Quarter – MH – Williams 26-yard run, 2:25.

LR – Watkins 70-yard reception, :43.

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