SOUTH AIKEN 40, RICHLAND NORTHEAST 12
South Aiken faced a crucial situation in its season opener against Richland Northeast on Friday.
After taking a two-score lead into the half, the T-Breds watched that lead dwindle down to just two points after a blocked punt and a fumble to start the third quarter.
The home team had a counter punch, though. Senior running back Damien Brown took a kickoff back 85 yards to set up a Bo Baldwin 2-yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown, and the T-Breds rumbled on to a 40-12 victory.
“The biggest thing I was proud of was we jumped out 14-0, and they tightened it back up and made it 14-12, and in years past we might would've lost this thing, but we gathered ourselves, had a big run,” said head coach Jeremy West, crediting offensive coordinator Ted Cain for calming the T-Bred offense down. “That was big for us tonight; I saw them grow up a little bit.”
Brown played an important role in that. He helped give the T-Breds their halftime lead with a 69-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, but it was his big kickoff return that turned the tide back in South Aiken's favor for good. He had gotten his hands on the football after a failed exchange on the T-Breds' fumble in the third, and the next time the senior touched the ball was on the key return.
“It feels great to try to recover from mistakes ... shake it off, move forward and just keep your head focused,” Brown said. “I had it in my head – big plays, get the momentum built up.”
Brown finished the night with 98 yards and a score on six carries in the running game. Fellow senior running back Adam Allen had 64 yards and two scores on 10 carries and also caught a screen pass and took it 52 yards for a touchdown to start the game's scoring.
“They were huge. It all starts up front with the line,” West said of his backfield tandem and their big blockers. “The line did a good job opening up holes, but they made some great cuts. Their vision was good.”
Baldwin finished the night 4-of-10 passing for 97 yards and two touchdowns.
The T-Bred defense was dominant in the win, limiting the Cavaliers to 106 total yards of offense, 57 of which came on 15 carries by Jaquari Brown.
In addition, West found a kickoff specialist in soccer star turned wide receiver Skyler Lightbody. The 6-foot-1 senior is known for a strong leg on the pitch, and he put it to use on Friday, sending five of his seven kickoffs into the endzone. The Cavaliers' best field position after a Lightbody boot was their own 23-yard line.
“We saw in the scrimmage a couple weeks ago that he could put it in the end zone, and we thought we'd try it out,” West said. “And that was a big weapon for us tonight, I thought.”
The win got the T-Breds started off on the right foot for just the second time in the last six years, and the 28-point margin of victory was the biggest in the fourth-year head coach's tenure at the Stomping Grounds.
“It feels good. They're a AAAA opponent,” said West, whose team hosts defending Class AAAA, Division II champion Greenwood next Friday. “The competition steps up a notch next week, but it's good to get that first one, and getting one in this fashion is nice.”
RNE 0 0 12 0 – 12
SA 14 0 13 13 – 40
SA–Bo Baldwin 52 pass to Adam Allen (Owen Myers kick) 7:23.
SA–Damien Brown 69 run (Myers kick) 1:22.
RNE–Simeon Kelly 1 run (Conversion failed) 6:13.
RNE–Jaquari Blunt 2 run (Conversion failed) 4:24.
SA–Baldwin 2 run (Kick failed) 4:08.
SA–Allen 10 run (Myers kick) 2:12.
SA–Baldwin 29 pass to Jordan Scott (kick failed) 11:40.
SA–Allen 22 run (Myers kick) 6:19.
RNE–Blunt 15-57-1TD, Kelly 18-24-1TD, Malik Scott 1-(-3), Tavar Stafford 2-2, Quinnton Burrell 2-3, Barry Moorer 2-17. Totals 40-100-2TD.
SA–Baldwin 5-38-1TD, Allen 10-64-2TD, Brown 6-98-1TD, Matt Albertson 2-(-3), Rod Wise 3-11. Totals 26-208-4TD.
SA–Allen 2-53-1TD, Skyler Lightbody 1-15, Scott 1-29-1TD.
Photo gallery: Strom Thurmond vs. Richland Northeast
Staff photo by Jeremy Timmerman South Aiken’s Damien Brown (6) breaks away from Richland Northeast’s Charles Hargrove (33) and Kenneth Furtick (25).×
Staff photo by Jeremy Timmerman South Aiken’s Adam Allen (8) and Rod Wise (4) put the brakes on Richland Northeast’s Jaquari Blunt (21).×
Staff photo by Jeremy Timmerman South Aiken’s Bo Baldwin (11) fights for yardange against Richland Northeast’s William Black (45).×
Staff photo by Jeremy Timmerman South Aiken’s Adam Allen (8) runs for daylight against Richland Northeast.×