STROM THURMOND 41, AIRPORT 6
By Scott Rodgers
JOHNSTON — The Rebels’ offense got off to a sluggish start, but their defense came roaring out of the gates.
Strom Thurmond (6-1, 2-0) held Airport (3-4, 1-3) to just two first downs until the fourth quarter, with another coming via a penalty. It was a dominant performance for the Rebels, who didn’t allow a play of more than 9 yards until there were 10 minutes left in the game.
“I think it was the best defensive effort we’ve had all year,” Strom Thurmond head coach Lee Sawyer said. “They really just took it to another level tonight.”
After the first quarter, the game was scoreless. Strom Thurmond had driven deep into Airport territory two times but had nothing to show for its efforts. The first drive ended with a field goal that just didn’t have enough length from 33 yards out and the other one stalled after the Rebels’ game didn’t pay off.
The second quarter was a totally different story.
Darius Hammond punched in a 3-yard touchdown following a lengthy Rebel drive, which brought the Strom Thurmond faithful to their feet. Two plays later, Aaron Cook picked off a Kadarius Jackson pass and returned it 8 yards for a score.
“When we got that pick six, it was a huge momentum swing for us,” Sawyer said.
Cook’s night wasn’t done from there. He was essentially a shutdown corner, not allowing another reception on his side of the field and having a number of defections and break ups. He also provided a number of big hits as well that jarred Airport receivers from the ball and had them hearing footsteps.
“Aaron had a phenomenal game,” Sawyer said. “He’s rangy and athletic out there, and he’s just a great player to have.”
After Cook’s pick, the next drive featured Jauveer Hammond getting on track, throwing for a short touchdown of his own. He would tack on two more scores with his legs in the third, a 1-yard sneak and a 22-yard scamper.
“I told the offense that it’s not going to be this easy every week,” Sawyer said. “This week, we had some penalties at bad times, but I think, overall, we did some super things.”
The Rebels went on to add another score with James McKie punching it in from 4 yards out after rushing for 41 on the previous play. Strom Thurmond continued to pitch a shutout with its second stringers on the field, and their second team offense also moved the ball well against an Airport unit that consisted mostly of its starters.
The Eagles were finally able to get on the board as time expired with a heave to the end zone from Forest Arnold to Nathan Platt.
The Rebels are firing on all cylinders, winners of their past six, but next week features a date with the Tigers in Swansea that will shape the playoff picture in 5-AAA.
“We’re going to need all of the momentum and play we had tonight for next week,” Sawyer said. “Coach Leaphart worked for me for six years, I’m proud of the job he has done out there, and they are a great team. I can’t root for them next week, though.”
Scott Rodgers is a graduate of Alvernia University and is a staff writer for the Aiken Standard.
AP 0 0 0 6 – 6
ST 0 21 13 7– 41
ST-Darius Hammond 3 rush (Trent Miller kick) 5:10
ST-Aaron Cook 8 interception return (Miller kick) 4:51
ST-Jauveer Hammond 3 pass to Trevonte Watkins (Miller kick) 1:18
ST-Jauveer Hammond 1 rush (Kick failed) 9:47
ST-Jauveer Hammond 22 rush (Miller kick) 1:39
ST-James McKie 4 rush (Miller kick) 11:28
AP-Forest Arnold 29 pass to Nathan Platt (No kick) .1
ST–Darius Hammond 12-103, 1 TD, Jauveer Hammond 13-58, 2 TDs, James McKie 8-97, 1 TD, Delonte Bates 4-21, Trevonte Watkins 3-6, Ty Brooks 1-7, Tyree Stidem 3-1
AP–Markis Jenkins 12-47, Kadarius Jackson 3-5, Maurice Jackson 3-2, Dorian Jones 1-(-5)
ST–Jauveer Hammond 11-17, 92, 1 TD, 1 INT, Stidem 0-1
AP–Jackson 5-10, 20, Forest Arnold 7-12, 90, 1 TD
ST–Ty Brooks 5-62, Darius Hammond 4-16, Watkins 1-3, 1 TD, Stidem 1-11
AP–Jenkins 1-33, Nathan Platt 2-27, 1 TD, Xavier Bell 4-27, Chandler Gaston 2-18, Kentrell Bennon 3-5
ST-Aaron Cook 1-8, 1 TD, Israel Talbert 1-26
AP-Anthony Steward 1-2