WARE SHOALS 42, WILLISTON-ELKO 35
By KYLE DAWSON
Special to the Aiken Standard
WILLISTON - Heading into halftime up 19-0, Williston-Elko appeared to be in control of its first round Class A Division I playoff contest with the visiting Ware Shoals Hornets. The first 24 minutes of play barely took 30 minutes of real time to complete, with the Blue Devils dominating on both sides of the ball. In the first two quarters, Williston-Elko ran 38 plays to just 15 for Ware Shoals, outgaining the Hornets by 172 yards.
How quickly things can change.
Ware Shoals players poured onto the field after Blue Devils quarterback Dalton Mundy’s 4th down pass to Faheem Richburg came up just a few yards short in the game’s final seconds. The Hornets had just completed a stunning comeback, scoring 28 points in the 4th quarter to upset Williston-Elko, 42-35.
“It was just one of those nights where every time we got up, they made a big play,” Williston-Elko head coach Dwayne Garrick said. “They big-played us tonight, especially in the second half.”
A pair of defensive touchdowns by the Hornets (5-6) to open the final frame swung momentum heavily in Ware Shoals’ favor, the first of which occurred on the first play of the quarter. Williston-Elko (8-3) running back Jarius Jenkins appeared to be down at the Ware Shoals 48-yard line after a short gain. But Jenkins was laying on a Hornets defender and had not yet been ruled down. Jaquan Hicks alertly ripped the ball from Jenkins’ hands and raced 52 yards for a touchdown to cut the Blue Devils’ lead to 25-21. A cacophony of boos rained down on the field from Williston-Elko fans who thought Jenkins was down.
“That’s a tough call,” Garrick said. “But I always tell our kids one play never makes a difference, anyway, over the course of the ballgame.”
The fans’ anger quickly turned to shock once it became clear that those points were not coming off the scoreboard. Williston-Elko needed an answer to get momentum back in its favor. A 21-yard sprint by Shaquan Gaffney and a 4-yard run by Jenkins appeared to put the Blue Devils back in charge. Mundy dropped back to attempt a quick slant. Instead of finding his intended receiver, he found Ware Shoals’ Wesley Jordan. Jordan scampered 60 yards for the score to give the Hornets their first lead of the night, 28-25. The pair of big plays, separated by just 62 seconds, were just the beginning for Ware Shoals.
The Blue Devils answered back, driving 57 yards in 12 plays. A 1-yard plunge by Jenkins, his second of the night, put Williston-Elko back on top, 32-28, with 5:41 remaining in the game. Jenkins rushed for 262 yards and a pair of scores on 46 carries.
That lead lasted 15 seconds. Hicks once again spoiled the Blue Devils’ momentum, this time with a 97-yard touchdown return on the ensuing kickoff. Jeremy Hart’s extra point put Ware Shoals back up, 35-32.
Williston-Elko continued to chip away offensively at a Ware Shoals defense that refused to give up big plays. Taylor Hearn booted a 25-yard field goal to tie the game with 2:33 to play, then bombed the kickoff through the end zone for a touchback to put Ware Shoals 80 yards away from the goal line.
Ware Shoals still had big plays left in the tank. Jordan’s 30-yard pass to Juwan Abney moved the Hornets to midfield. Jordan was both on the passing and receiving end of several big jump ball receptions throughout the game. A facemask penalty against the Blue Devils pushed Ware Shoals 15 yards closer to pay dirt. Then came the dagger, a 35-yard scoring strike from Jordan to Hicks with 1:01 to play. The touchdown capped a phenomenal evening for Hicks. He scored four total touchdowns, two as a wide receiver and one each on defense and special teams.
Needing to move the ball quickly, Williston-Elko spread the field for Dalton Mundy. The Blue Devils, who run a majority of their plays from the wishbone formation, could not get the ball into the end zone to tie the game. Mundy’s 4th-and-15 pass to Richburg came up a couple of yards short, setting off a raucous celebration by the Hornets.
The scene on the field after the final horn was a shocking one, given how easily the Blue Devils had controlled the first half. Leaning heavily on Jenkins and David Owens, Williston-Elko dominated in time of possession and kept Ware Shoals’ potent offense off the field. Owens finished the game with 126 all purpose yards and a trio of touchdowns.
Williston-Elko opened the game with a 10-play, 59-yard scoring drive. Owens cashed in with a 3-yard touchdown run to put the Blue Devils up 6-0 with 8:03 left in the first. The defense forced a three-and-out by the Hornets, then the offense went back to work. Jenkins’ 1-yard dive capped another lengthy Williston-Elko drive and put the Blue Devils up 12-0.
Content with pounding the ball between the tackles, Williston-Elko did not need Mundy to do much early other than hand the ball off. He attempted a pair of passes on the Blue Devils’ next drive, the first of which went for a first down to extend the drive. His next pass, a 35-yarder to David Owens, gave Williston-Elko what seemed like a commanding 19-0 lead heading into intermission.
The heartbreaking defeat closes the book on a season that saw Williston-Elko win its fourth consecutive Region 4-A crown.
WS 0 0 14 28 42
WE 6 13 6 10 35
WE-David Owens 3 run (conversion failed) 8:03
WE-Jarius Jenkins 1 run (conversion failed) 11:28
WE-Dalton Mundy 32 pass to Owens (Taylor Hearn kick) 1:09
WS-Shamar Rice 56 pass to Jaquan Hicks (Jeremy Hart kick) 7:28
WE-Owens 5 run (conversion failed) 6:06
WS-Juwan Abney 1 run (Hart kick) 5:03
WS-Hicks 52 fumble return (Hart kick) 11:43
WS-Wesley Jordan 60 interception return (Hart kick) 10:41
WE-Jenkins 1 run (Hearn kick) 5:41
WS-Hicks 97 kickoff return (Hart kick) 5:26
WE-Hearn 25 field goal 2:33
WS-Jordan 35 pass to Hicks (Hart kick) 1:01
WS-Jaquan Hicks 7-3, Sammy Lomax 1-1, Juwan Abney 4-(-2)-1, Wesley Jordan 3-(-2), Shamar Rice 1-(-6). Totals 16-(-6)-1.
WE-Jarius Jenkins 46-262-2, David Owens 22-88-2, Shaquan Gaffney 5-32. Totals 73-382-4.
WS-Shamar Rice 8-13-142-1TD, Wesley Jordan 3-4-72-1TD. Totals 11-17-214-2TD.
WE-Dalton Mundy 7-17-86-1TD-1INT.
WS-Jaquan Hicks 2-91-2, Wesley Jordan 5-86, Juwan Abney 2-23, Sammy Lomax 1-7, Bradley Nelson 1-7. Totals 11-214-2.
WE-David Owens 2-38-1, Faheem Richburg 2-24, Juan’Yee Jenkins 2-17, Antonio Coleman 1-7. Totals 7-86-1.