NORTH AUGUSTA — The first quarter of Friday night's high school football game at Jackets Stadium went the way visiting White Knoll wanted. Using their modified Wing-T that more closely resembled a rugby scrum, the Timberwolves dominated time of possession. They marched the ball 36 yards down the field to North Augusta territory before being forced to punt and killed so much clock, the opening quarter ended with no score.
The matchup between teams that play at different tempos and utilize different styles was going in favor of the tortoise.
Then the second quarter began.
The Yellow Jackets only needed three plays before sophomore quarterback Trib Reece connected with Devin Grimes on a 12-yard touchdown pass. That was all the scoring North Augusta would need, but far from what it eventually got. The Yellow Jackets cruised to an impressive 33-0 win over a team that figured to be one of its primary rivals in pursuit of a Region 5-AAAA title.
“White Knoll's a quality team, so this is a big win,” North Augusta head coach Dan Pippin said after his team improved to 6-2 on the season and 2-0 in region play. “The best thing we did was defense. They didn't cross the 50 but one time until the very end.”
The Timberwolves (6-2, 1-1) were limited to 96 yards in the game, with none of them coming via the pass. After the initial drive, the Yellow Jackets completely dominated. They allowed just three first-down conversions until the game's final possession when White Knoll's starters gained little ground against North Augusta's reserves. Two times in the third quarter, the Timberwolves fumbled away possession on the first plays of series that started deep in their territory, leading to 10 easy points for the Yellow Jackets.
Leading the way for North Augusta's defense was Kris Howard. The area's leading tackler tallied 11 more stops in the game, while Morgan and Jesse Owuso each had six tackles. Brandon Maddox also had six tackles but forced one fumble and recovered the other.
While White Knoll struggled, North Augusta had a well-balanced attack that produced 393 total yards. In just his third start since taking over for the injured Cody Turner, Reece completed 14 of 23 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Many of his passes were thrown toward Grimes, who made seven receptions for 101 yards and the score.
“I have a good connection with Devin. He's always open, and I try to get him the ball as much as I can,” said Reece, who was nearly flawless executing a 2-minute drill at the end of the first half.
He needed 10 plays to take North Augusta 95 yards in 2:23 for a score, a 16-yard pass to Trey Morgan. But much of the yardage gained on the drive came courtesy of DeVonte Pressley's running. He rushed for 53 yards on the drive and finished the game with 211 and two touchdowns on 19 carries.
With momentum on North Augusta's side after the late second-quarter score, Pressley delivered a devastating blow just three plays into the third quarter. He broke free for 71-yard touchdown run that put the score out of reach.
“I knew what play was called and knew it was going to be a cut back. I just needed one block and they gave it to me. It was real great I could help the team, but I couldn't do it without the offensive line blocking so good,” Pressley said on the night he eclipsed the 1,000-yard plateau in rushing. He's run for 1,049 yards and 10 touchdowns in eight games. “I'm happy to get 1,000 but I couldn't do it without a good offensive line.”
“He cuts real well. He's pretty good,” Pippin said, with a wry smile on his face. “The kids played well, I'm proud of them.”
Pressley added another touchdown following one of the White Knoll fumbles and place kicker Dylan Davis connected on field-goal attempts from 20- and 29-yards out for the final margin. It was a resounding win over a very good opponent.
“This was really good. I'm proud of the team,” Reece said. “This shows we can hang with anybody.”
North Augusta will put its perfect region record on the line against South Aiken next week, at Pippin's old Stomping Grounds.
“It's always fun playing there,” he said of the school he used to be the head coach for. “I'm looking forward to next week.”
Noah Feit is the Sports Editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than a dozen years after graduating from Syracuse University.
WK 0 0 0 0 – 0
NA 0 13 17 3 – 33
NA–Trib Reece 12 pass Devin Grimes (Dylan Davis kick) 10:47.
NA–Reece 16 pass Trey Morgan (Davis kick) 0:20.
NA–DeVonte Pressley 71 run (Davis kick) 10:35.
NA–Davis 20 Field Goal 4:11.
NA–Pressley 6 run (Davis kick) 1:23.
NA–Davis 29 Field Goal 10:55.
WK–Quinn Jones 19-76, Diondre Highbaugh 11-29, Zach Weed 3-4, TEAM 1-0, Delvin Riley 8-(-13).
NA–Devonte Pressley 19-211-2TD, Willie McCloud 3-8, Trib Reece 1-(-7), Trey Morgan 4-4, Chris Price 2-(-3).
NA–Reece 14-23-168-2TD, McCloud 2-2-12.
NA–Devin Grimes 7-101-1TD, Morgan 2-28-1 TD, Zach Wilson 2-17, Dre Dunbar 2-15, Jaleel Bryant 2-12, Antuan Andrews 1-7.