Family ties strong in first-ever Lexington/Gilbert meeting

Lexington running back Akeem Nicholas with the carry against Dreher. GoFlashWin photo

Friday’s first-ever football meeting between Lexington and Gilbert will have a “family reunion” atmosphere.

The close proximity of the two communities has created lifelong connections for the head coaches of the respective schools:

– Lexington head football coach Perry Woolbright’s father, Marty, coached 11 seasons with the Indians. Both the younger Woolbright and Gilbert head football coach Chad Leaphart played for Marty Woolbright at Gilbert.
– Gilbert assistant coach Mark Minchew worked under Marty Woolbright at Gilbert.
– Leaphart’s father was a member of Lexington’s 1950 state championship team and his brothers, Gerald and Damone Leaphart, attended Lexington. Damone retired this year after spending 36 years as a Wildcats’ athletic trainer.

Those close ties will be pushed aside for a matchup of 2-0 teams.

“I’m pleased with the fact we have come out of the first two weeks with two victories,” Woolbright said. “Our kids’ effort has been good for the first two games. Gilbert will be our biggest challenge so far this season. They are one of the best coached teams and don’t make a lot of mistakes on either side of the ball. They play with a lot of energy and are a physical team.”

The Indians are coming off a 54-19 win over another Lexington County rival. The team amassed 636 total yards of offense with wide receiver Matt Reed catching a career-best 11 passes for 238 yards and two TDs from the quarterback duo of Josh Strickland and Jy Tolin. Northside Christian Academy transfer Ty Walker rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown, adding to an already loaded backfield with DeAndre Cook and Cody Temples.

Gilbert running back DeAndre Cook gets the handoff from quarterback Josh Strickland during the Week 1 opener against Gray Collegiate. Thomas Grant photo

“It takes a lot of reps at practice,” said Leaphart about his team’s offensive consistency. “We practice with a fast tempo so that we can accomplish that and ultimately it gives us great depth at all the skill positions. Also, our guys are team first. The ball is going to be shared between a lot of good guys, but the win is the stat that our guys are most concerned with.”

Lexington’s offense has received a major boost from running back Akeem Nicholas. He has rushed for 356 yards in the first two games, taking some pressure off first-year starter Cal Herndon.

“Akeem has been a great surprise for our offense,” Woolbright said. “We knew he could have a good year. He plays with a high motor and wears on teams as the game goes one. It helps a young quarterback when you have a running back you can rely on.”

After getting tested in Week 0 by Gray Collegiate’s Hunter Helms, Leaphart said his secondary is readying itself for a similar challenge.Gilbert will look to extend its 12-game regular-season winning  streak. It’s also 2-0 all-time against Class 5A schools, both wins over River Bluff.

Categories: Gilbert, Lexington, Lexington County, Sports