STROM THURMOND 44, SWANSEA 21
JOHNSTON — A flurry of big plays on special teams gave Strom Thurmond the burst it needed to put away visiting Swansea on Friday night. The Rebels kept the ball away from the Tigers for nearly the entire second quarter, building a lead they wouldn’t relinquish en route to a 44-21 victory.
The Rebels (7-1, 3-0 Region 5-AAA) are now the only remaining undefeated team in Region 5-AAA play, giving them a leg up in the chase for the playoffs.
“If we just handle our business, we don’t have to depend on anybody else. So that’s the biggest thing,” said Rebels head coach Lee Sawyer.
Strom Thurmond, nursing a 14-7 lead midway through the second quarter, lined up to punt the ball back to Swansea (5-3, 2-1). The Tigers chose to watch the ball bounce toward the goal line for what looked like a touchback, but Cody Griffith dove in to down the ball at Swansea’s 4-yard line.
Three quick stops later, Swansea punter Arthur Myers trotted onto the field. Myers was engulfed in the end zone, with the ball never cleanly leaving his foot. Swansea recovered the block in its own end zone for the safety, boosting the Rebels’ lead to nine.
Strom Thurmond wasted little time cashing in on the ensuing free kick, returning it all the way to the Swansea 28-yard line. It took the Rebels just four plays to find the end zone, with Chad Gilchrist’s 7-yard touchdown run widening the scoring margin.
The Tigers were forced to wait even longer to get the ball back. Cole Fell’s onside kick caught Swansea by surprise, and he easily recovered it near midfield. He fittingly capped the drive with a 39-yard field goal to give the Rebels a 26-7 lead heading into halftime.
“We had been working on that onside kick for three weeks now and were just waiting for the right time,” said Sawyer. “Cole executed it perfectly.”
Swansea opened the game with a vengeance, forcing a Rebels three-and-out and then driving 68 yards in nine plays to take an early 7-0 lead.
Strom Thurmond tied the game less than a minute later and never looked back. Defensive adjustments allowed the Rebels to hold the Tigers, who entered the game averaging over 37 points per contest, in check for the remainder of the game.
Rebels quarterback Jauveer Hammond led all players with 117 yards rushing and a touchdown on 19 carries, He was precise as a passer, completing 12 of 17 attempts for 181 yards and two more scores.
Kendall Hill was Hammond’s favorite target, hauling in six receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown.
Swansea closed the gap to 15 points in the third quarter when Clay Lucas hit Craig Johnson for a 63-yard touchdown. But that’s as close as the Tigers would get.
Two more Strom Thurmond touchdowns in the fourth quarter turned the game into a blowout. Chance Walker added a late Swansea score, but it was too little, too late.
Strom Thurmond will look to pad its league lead when it hosts Gilbert next Friday.
S 7 0 7 7 – 21
ST 14 12 3 15 – 44
S - Travis Loadholt 12 run (Arthur Myers kick) 6:55
ST - Jauveer Hammond 29 pass to Tyree Stidem (Cole Fell kick) 5:46
ST - Hammond 7 run (Fell kick) 0:26
ST - Myers punt blocked in end zone 5:14
ST - Chad Gilchrist 7 run (Fell kick) 4:01
ST - Fell 39 field goal 0:26
ST - Fell 32 field goal 4:45
S - Clay Lucas 63 pass to Craig Johnson (Myers kick) 2:35
ST - Delonta Bates 33 run (Fell kick) 10:18
ST - Hammond 47 pass to Kendall Hill (Fell pass to Stidem) 7:23
S - Chance Walker 3 run (Myers kick) 3:38
S - Travis Loadholt 25-109-1, Chance Walker 10-63-1, Clay Lucas 4-(-18). Totals 39-154-2.
ST - Jauveer Hammond 19-117-1, Chad Gilchrist 10-70-1, Delonta Bates 6-57-1, Deandre Ryan 1-(-7). Totals 36-237-3.
S - Clay Lucas 8-15-146-1TD-2INT
ST - Jauveer Hammond 12-17-181-2TD-0INT
S - Craig Johnson 3-95-1, Nick Tompkins 2-29, Chance Walker 1-8, Travis Loadholt 1-7, Austin Fowler 1-7. Totals 8-146-1.
ST - Kendall Hill 6-110-1, Tyree Stidem 2-42-1, Jequez Harris 1-18, Deandre Ryan 2-10, Chad Gilchrist 1-1. Totals 12-181-2.
ST - Tay Merriweather, Cody Griffith.