STROM THURMOND 27, HANAHAN 10
By JEREMY TIMMERMAN
HANAHAN — After one Hanahan drive in the second half, Strom Thurmond trailed the Hawks by four points. Then, Darius Hammond took over.
The Rebel senior scored three times in a little more than 4 minutes, carrying the visitors to a 27-10 victory and a chance to host the Class AAA, Lower State championship game next week.
“That’s what I told him before the game – this might be a night where he just needs to do it,” said Strom Thurmond head coach Lee Sawyer of his Shrine Bowl running back.
Hammond was held in check for much of the first half, accumulating only 18 yards before the break as the home team built an early 3-0 lead on a 23-yard field goal by Haven Horlback.
The Rebels (12-1) capitalized on mistakes by the Hawks (11-2) in the punting game, though, turning short fields into a pair of 29-yard Trent Miller field goals in the second quarter. A third field-goal attempt by Miller was blocked as the clock expired before halftime, but Sawyer said Miller’s efforts both kicking and punting were a key to the win.
“That was huge,” Sawyer said. “He had us worried last week (bobbling snaps) ... but showed a lot of guts there.”
Coupled with the blocked field goal, the Hawks firmly secured momentum on their opening drive of the second half when North-South All-Star quarterback Anthony Smalls found Sammy Richardson for an 80-yard field goal to give Hanahan a 10-6 lead.
That’s when Hammond went to work.
He capped the ensuing long drive with a 4-yard touchdown run, after which the Rebels attempted a 2-point conversion with a reverse pass from receiver Ty Brooks to quarterback Jauveer Hammond. They converted, but a penalty pushed them back before Miller nailed a “huge” extra point, according to Sawyer, to give the visitors a 13-10 lead.
After Strom Thurmond forced a punt, Darius broke free for a 55-yard touchdown run a couple plays into the next drive to give the Rebels a 20-10 lead.
“We had to be patient,” the senior said. “In the second half, we made some adjustments.”
He finished the night with 103 yards and two scores on 19 carries, but perhaps his finest moment came in the return game. The Rebels forced another Hawk punt on a three-and-out after Darius’ long run, and the bouncing ball came dangerously close to a Rebel blocker. Darius caught it, broke a tackle and came around the left side for a 54-yard score to push the game to its final margin.
Led by Smalls, the home team moved the ball into Rebel territory a few times in the fourth quarter, but the “Blue Steel” defense held strong. Up against a Hawk passing game that accumulated 274 yards even in a loss, Sawyer’s defensive unit broke up passes, kept pressure on Smalls and allowed only 57 rushing yards.
Exemplifying the effort was Israel Talbert. Defending much bigger receiver Terrell Green for much of the night, Talbert found a way to get in position and nearly intercepted a few passes.
“What heart and determination he’s got,” Sawyer said of the junior cornerback.
When Strom Thurmond got the ball one final time, Jauveer collected two big runs to get a first down and seal the win for the visitors. Despite a stingy Hawk defense, the junior managed 75 rushing yards and 100 passing yards of his own, and the Rebels didn’t turn the ball over on the night.
Both Sawyer and the players were happy to avoid what Darius called the “long, sad ride” back home after road playoff losses of recent years.
“In the past few years, when we’ve gone on the road, we’ve come back with a loss,” Darius said.
While Sawyer was glad to get the road victory, he was even more relieved that his team will host Hartsville (13-0) next Friday with a trip to the state championship game on the line.
“That’s our goal, to play on Thanksgiving weekend,” he said.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at Aiken Standard since June 2010.
ST 0 6 21 0 - 27
HAN 3 0 7 0 - 10
HAN-Haven Horlback 23 field goal 3:51.
ST-Trent Miller 29 field goal 7:43.
ST-Miller 29 field goal 2:12.
HAN-Anthony Smalls 80 pass to Sammy Richardson 11:10.
ST-Darius Hammond 4 run (Miller kick) 7:56.
ST-D. Hammond 55 run (Miller kick) 4:51.
ST-D. Hammond 54 punt return (Miller kick) 3:36.
ST-D. Hammond 19-103-2TD, James McKie 3-0, Jauveer Hammond 16-75, Ty Brooks 1-(-2). Totals 39-176-2TD.
HAN-Smalls 19-28, Octavious Hayes 1-(-1), Kyle Spigner 7-32, Lyndon Young 1-(-2). Totals 28-57.
ST-J. Hammond 6-13-100-0TD-0INT.
HAN-Smalls 17-34-274-1TD-0INT, Team 0-1-0-0TD-0INT. Totals 17-35-274-1TD-0INT.
ST-Brooks 3-50, D. Hammond 1-17, Kendall Hill 2-33.
HAN-Mario Gates 6-94, Richardson 6-95-1TD, Terrell Green 4-84, Spigner 1-1.