BEAUFORT 21, AIKEN 0
For half of Friday's game against Beaufort, Aiken gave the visiting Eagles everything they could handle in a scoreless tie. The second half was a different story, though, as Beaufort pulled away for a 21-0 win.
“Like I was telling the kids, I thought our defense made improvements,” said Aiken head coach Brian Neal. “Not real sure we did on offense. We are doing some things better, but not nearly the progress we want to be making.”
Aiken (0-2) went toe-to-toe with Beaufort (2-0) defensively in the first half. The Eagles only mustered 85 yards of offense before the break, while the Hornets racked up 80.
Unfortunately for Aiken, 58 of those first-half yards came from the running of senior fullback D'Andre Pope, who left the game with a knee injury during the Hornets' second drive. He did not return to action.
“It's a knee injury,” Neal said. “How severe, we're not real sure yet.”
The Hornets got a little momentum going into the half when Bryson Jones intercepted a pass deep in Aiken territory, but it didn't carry over into the second stanza.
After forcing an Aiken punt, Beaufort went to work. Often converting lengthy third downs, the Eagles charged down field and capitalized on busted coverage for a 24-yard touchdown pass from Ben Vaigneur to Stephen Baggett to start the game's scoring.
Beaufort had their own workhorse in the first half in Eric Blakely, who had 60 yards at the break and wasn't done yet. After another Hornet punt, Blakely found room up the middle for a 63-yard touchdown run to give the visitors a 14-0 lead in the third quarter. Blakely finished the night with a game-high 145 yards.
The Hornet offense was unable to move the ball much on the ground without Pope, something Neal chalked up to the work of his offensive line.
“We've got to get better up front,” he said. “I think that's our big goal for us right now, offensively, is get better up front.”
Aiken punted again and looked to have good starting position on an interception by Stacey Toole, but Toole fumbled the ball in Eagle territory to give it right back. The Hornets got a stop anyway, but their next drive sealed their fate.
Quarterback Caleb Heath, who was under pressure all night, stepped up into a collapsing pocket and ran 25 yards for a long first down at the Eagle 35. Jaylen Smith lost 5 yards on a rush the next play, but the Hornets got it back on a penalty.
Then Heath hit Smith in the hands with a screen pass that appeared to fall incomplete, but the officials ruled it a fumble. Beaufort's Jawon Mack scooped it for a 64-yard touchdown, the final score of the night.
Because the play happened with about five minutes remaining, Neal didn't feel it cost his team the game by any stretch. The momentum shift was “deflating,” though, for a team that finished the game with 192 yards of offense.
“I thought it was a terrible call, but then again, it wasn't a game-changer,” he said. “But it's something as a team we've got to come back and make the next play.”
Aiken will now try to re-group before traveling to play county foe Midland Valley next week at 7:30 p.m.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been with the Aiken Standard since June 2010.
B 0 0 14 7 – 21
A 0 0 0 0 – 0
B-Ben Vaigneur 24 pass to Stephen Baggett (Brady Cormier kick) 8:10.
B-Eric Blakely 63 run (Cormier kick) 2:38.
B-Jawon Mack 64 fumble return (Cormier kick) 5:32.
B–Jeffrey Tookes 8-5, Vaigneur 4-(-10), Blakely 11-145-1TD, Williams Spann 2-(-2), Colby Chalmers 1-(-27). 26-111-1TD.
A–D'Andre Pope 13-58, Dramel Coleman 6-8, Nakeem Spann 6-29, Caleb Heath 8-32, Jaylen Smith 7-2. 40-129.
B–Keaton Butler 2-20, Da'Quon Cason 2-21, Mack 1-28, Baggett 1-24, Tyler Payne 1-4.
A–Quamayne Simpkins 1-11, Jaylen Smith 2-28, Antwan Chandler 2-24.
A-Bryson Jones 1-0, Stacey Toole 1-22.