GREENWOOD 34, NORTH AUGUSTA 32
By SCOTT J. BRYAN
GREENWOOD — Make no mistake: Greenwood High School’s football team is eligible for the next round of the playoffs.
Kicker Matt McManis made sure of it.
The Eagles’ senior kicker nailed a 37-yard field goal with 15.3 seconds remaining to send Greenwood to the Class AAAA, Division II semifinals in a topsy-turvy 34-32 victory against North Augusta at J.W. Babb Stadium.
In a week that shone the spotlight on Division II defending state champion Goose Creek and its protracted battle with the South Carolina High School League about an eligible player – a judge allowed Goose Creek to play Friday night despite being disqualified by the SCHSL on Wednesday – Greenwood advanced to the third round despite some tense moments and the loss of a key player.
“I just don’t want to end it with these guys,” Greenwood coach Gene Cathcart said. “These are special kids.”
He’ll have at least another week with his team, but the Eagles cut it close.
After Greenwood (13-0) claimed its first lead of the second half on Octavious Morgan’s 25-yard run with 10:53 left to play to take a 31-25 lead, North Augusta (9-4) responded with an 11-play, 57-yard drive.
During the Yellow Jackets’ drive, they converted two fourth downs, none bigger than Logon Wooward’s 12-yard touchdown reception from Trib Reese on fourth-and-6 with 5:56 left in the game.
Greenwood’s next drive stalled at the North Augusta 45-yard line, and Cathcart argued fervently for a face-mask penalty, drawing the ire of a sideline official and a 15-yard penalty.
“I’ve got to calm down in games,” Cathcart said. “This officiating crew I’ve had some previous encounters with, and I probably started us off on a bad foot with them.”
But North Augusta’s offense couldn’t finish the Eagles off despite the short field. Greenwood’s defense forced a punt from its 36-yard line, and set up for its final drive at the 17.
Tommy Turner – in the game because starting quarterback Evin Sims suffered an apparent concussion during the third quarter – completed a 12-yard pass to Aaron Broadwater for a first down, then connected on a short pass to Morgan that the junior wingback extended 19 yards to the Eagles’ 48.
After spiking the ball to stop the clock, Turner found Broadwater, a lanky 6-foot-4 senior, for a 31-yard reception, a jump ball that put the Eagles on the 21.
Four plays later, McManis fired in his field goal, and the stadium erupted.
“Man, I’m going to have to do something for (McManis),” said senior wingback Larenzo Mathis, who rushed for a team-high 107 yards. “I’m going to kiss him. Where’s he at?”
Despite the loss, North Augusta rolled up impressive statistics. Devonte Pressley rushed for 177 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries, while Reece, only a sophomore, completed 16 of 24 passes for 161, including nine consecutive in the first half. North Augusta converted on four of five fourth downs, as well.
“I’m just proud of my guys,” said North Augusta coach Dan Pippin, who fought back tears. “Not too many people gave us a chance, and I thought we came in here and played well. ... I’ve got a great group of kids.”
But in the end it was the Eagles who clawed back to victory. Up next, Greenwood faces South Point, a 31-28 winner against York, in the semifinals.
“I go to war with these boys every day on the practice field,” Mathis said. “We live for battles like this. We live to play like this. I love to see us come together and keep fighting. That’s the biggest thing. Even when we’re down, we kept fighting.
“Greenwood doesn’t believe in giving up.”
North Augusta 12 0 13 7 – 32
Greenwood 3 14 6 11 – 34
NA–Antwan Andrews 15 pass from Trib Reece (kick failed)
G–Matt McManis 38 field goal
NA–Dre Dunbar 25 pass from Reece (pass failed)
G–Evin Sims 1 run (McManis kick)
G–David Shavoy Davis 1 run (McManis kick)
NA–Devonte Pressley 53 run (run failed)
NA–Pressley 49 run (Dylan Davis kick)
G–Davis 8 run (pass failed)
G–Octavious Morgan 25 run (Larenzo Mathis run)
NA–Logon Wooward 12 pass from Reece (Davis kick)
G–McManis 37 field goal
NA–Devonte Pressley 25-177, Trey Morgan 4-13, Willie McCloud 3-19, Trib Reece 2-9, Ronald Williams 2-8.
G–Larenzo Mathis 17-107, Evin Sims 13-98, David Shavoy Davis 12-71, Octavious Morgan 7-42, Tommy Turner 3-5.
G–Turner 3-9-0-69, Sims 2-5-0-16.
NA–Dre Dunbar 3-48, Keyon West 5-43, Morgan 3-21, Antwan Andrews 2-19, Logon Wooward 1-12, Zach Wilson 1-7, Pressley 1-6.
G–Aaron Broadwater 2-53, Morgan 1-19, Mathis 2-16.