Aiken 20, RNE 7
After weeks of encouraging improvements in losses, head coach Brian Neal and his Aiken Hornets broke into the win column for the first time in 2013. Aiken clamped down defensively on Richland Northeast on Friday night, earning a 20-7 Homecoming victory at Hagood Stadium.
“It feels good,” Neal said, cradling the game ball. “I hope we can make this a habit. The defense played great. The defense kept answering the call; we kept putting their backs against the wall. The next step is to continue to improve and learn how to finish ball games.”
The Hornets (1-3) led from wire to wire, but the game wasn’t without drama. A Simeon Kelly touchdown run with 2:39 remaining ended Aiken’s shot at a shutout. Seconds later, the Cavaliers (0-4) had the ball again after successfully converting an onside kick. However, the Aiken defense held strong.
“I can’t say enough about the defense,” Neal said, giving credit to his defensive coaching staff. “They really went back and simplified things this week for us and I think that helped tremendously.”
Aiken’s defense was the story of the second half, mainly because the Hornets forced three turnovers. The first of those turnovers, Terrel Coates’s 49-yard fumble return for a score, gave the Hornets a 20-0 lead with 7:44 remaining in the third quarter.
The defensive touchdown and a stagnant Aiken offense after intermission meant that Richland Northeast spent almost all of the second half with the ball; the Cavaliers ran 47 plays after the break compared to just 12 for the Hornets.
A pair of Dramel Coleman interceptions bookended the fourth quarter. His first ended a Richland Northeast drive at the Hornets’ 3-yard line early in the period. His second killed the Cavaliers’ comeback hopes in the end zone with more than a minute to play.
Aiken limited Richland Northeast’s tough rushing attack to just 100 yards on 35 carries. Neal knew the Cavaliers, including the bulldozer quarterback Kelly, would run right at his defense.
“We knew they were big. We knew the challenge ahead of us,” Neal said, adding that Aiken’s hope was to turn Kelly into a passer. “We accomplished that, made them throw it around a little bit.”
The Hornets outgained the Cavaliers 192-33 in the first half and took a 14-0 lead into intermission. Aiken took the lead with 2:07 left in the first quarter on Coleman’s 4-yard touchdown plunge.
Richland-Northeast appeared to be in business just minutes later after blocking an Aiken punt. A crew of Cavaliers exploded through the middle of the line to knock the ball down, giving them the ball at Aiken’s 25-yard line. However, the Hornets held tough.
Four of Richland-Northeast’s five first-half drives ended without a first down. The Cavaliers’ only sustained possession ended with a missed field goal.
Aiken will next head to Irmo Friday night for the first of three consecutive road games.
RN 0 0 0 7 7
A 7 7 6 0 20
A — Dramel Coleman 4 run (Jacob Norton kick) 2:07
A — Caleb Heath 2 run (Norton kick) 5:16
A — Terrel Coates 49 fumble return (kick blocked) 7:44
RN — Simeon Kelly 4 run (Tavar Stafford kick) 2:39
RN — Jaquari Blunt 10-30, Devion Brown 3-30, Simeon Kelly 17-26-1TD, Barry Moorer 2-7, Corey Benjamin 1-4, B.J. Dickerson 1-3, Malik Scott 1-0. Totals 35-100-1.
A — Nakeem Spann 9-62, Caleb Heath 11-53-1TD, Dramel Coleman 8-35-TD1, Terrel Coates 2-5. Totals 30-155-2.
RN — Simeon Kelly 10-25-117-0TD-1INT, Devion Brown 0-3-0-0TD-1INT.
A — Caleb Heath 4-11-61-0TD-0INT.
RN — B.J. Dickerson 3-55, Corey Todd 3-28, Jaquari Blunt 1-18, Devion Brown 2-10, Malik Scott 1-6. Totals 10-117.
A — Quamayne Simpkins 1-29, Stacy Toole 1-16, Antwan Chandler 1-12, Deon Gaiters 1-4. Totals 4-61.
A — Dramel Coleman: 2.