Strom Thurmond Rebels top Midland Valley Mustangs in thriller
STROM THURMOND 34 MIDLAND VALLEY 27
GRANITEVILLE — The fans that braved the soggy conditions leading up to game time at L.L. Willis Stadium got to see their fair share of big plays between Strom Thurmond and Midland Valley, with the Region 5-AAA crown hanging in the balance.
In the end, the Rebels (9-1, 5-0) had the final answer and beat the Mustangs (6-4, 3-2) in a 34-27 road win.
With the teams tied at 27 with five minutes to go in the game, Rebel senior quarterback Jauveer Hammond led 71-yard scoring drive that included a 38-yard pass to Kendall Hill and an 11-yard run under heavy pressure. That set up a 1-yard game-winning touchdown by Chad Gilchrist with about a minute to go.
“He just put the team on his back there,” Strom Thurmond head coach Lee Sawyer said of Hammond. “We absolutely missed (blocking) a guy, and he had us in the backfield, and (Hammond) did everything he could to get it down to about the 1-foot line.”
Midland Valley tried to answer, but senior linebacker and Gardner-Webb commitment Kenyatta Dunbar picked off Mustang quarterback Daniel Carr to complete the win.
“Jauveer on one end making the big play for us, and then to seal the game for us, Kenyatta with the pick. Those are two huge plays for us,” Sawyer said.
The home Mustangs grabbed momentum on the game’s opening drive. Senior Trenton Baughman started behind center because Carr had been limited with a shoulder injury all week, and he made the most of it early. The Mustangs marched downfield behind the running of Derrick O’Conner, and Baughman hit Kameron Brown for a 4-yard touchdwon pass to take the early lead.
After the Rebels scored on a 16-yard pass from Hammond to Deondre Deandre Ryan with a missed extra point, they got a big stop that included a 15-yard sack of Baughman. The visitors took a 14-7 lead with a 19-yard Hammond run and a two-point conversion pass from Hammond to Ryan.
That’s when the Mustang coaches decided they needed Carr’s elusive abilities, and he didn’t disappoint. Midland Valley had to punt on Carr’s first possession, but it got the break it needed when Hammond couldn’t get his hands on a shotgun snap and defensive lineman Skyler Curry picked up the fumble on the Rebel 41-yard line. A couple plays later, Carr seemed to be in deep trouble, scrambling from the Rebel 35 back across his own 40, but he escaped. Sprinting back toward the line of scrimmage, he threw a bullet to Brown, who pulled in down in traffic and sprinted in for the 35-yard score to tie the game at 14.
“Carr, he’s got me out of breath,” Sawyer said. “And Brown, I mean, what a performance those two put on tonight.”
The Rebels tried to counter before the half, but Cole Fell missed a 39-yard field goal. The Mustangs again turned to Carr and Brown, and again the pair had an answer. A 28-yard catch and run by Baughman pushed the ball across midfield, and Brown turned in a pair of tough catches in tight coverage – one a leaping 35-yarder and the other an 11-yard sliding touchdown grab at the very edge of the end zone.
“He’s turning it on, ain’t he?” Midland Valley head Coach Rick Knight said. “Kameron’s just been making big plays for us lately, really all year.”
Brown had one more play in him before the half, picking off Hammond’s last-ditch heave at the Mustang 1-yard line.
The teams traded punts after halftime, and then the Rebels got a 4-yard scoring run from Tyree Stidem and a 1-yard run by Gilchrist on back-to-back possessions around a Midland Valley punt to take a 27-21 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Again the teams traded posessions, but Carr and Brown connected again with about nine minutes remaining, this time from 18 yards out. The Mustangs got a key stop and appeared to be on the move again, but they had to punt in Rebel territory. They appeared to force a fumble on the game-winning drive, but the Rebels recovered to set up Hammond’s heroics and Gilchrist’s winning score. Hammond finished with 20 carries for 102 yards and a score, while Gilchrist had 14 carries for 74 yards and two touchdowns on a night when senior running back Delonte Bates was out with a shoulder injury.
The win gave the Rebels the outright region title and a home game next week to open the Class AAA playoffs against an at-large No. 4 seed.
Sawyer said the team was well aware of the game’s ramifications, but he also knew that the Mustangs were playing for a share of the region crown and foresaw the test ahead.
“We knew all we had to do was win, but like I tried to emphasize to the guys yesterday, they had a lot at stake too,” Sawyer said.
Brown finished the game with seven catches for 118 yards, four touchdowns and an interception, while Carr ran 17 times for 55 yards and threw for 184 yards and three scores. He, too, was without a weapon for most of the night as Dré Carr only carried the ball once after being limited with a groin injury for a few weeks.
Midland Valley will hit the road for its playoff opener against the No. 2 seed from Region 6-AAA. Marlboro County, Hartsville and Crestwood finished in a three-way tie atop that region, with the official brackets to be released today.
Regardless of opponent, Knight said that the duel with the Rebels and the way his players responded to the challenge should be a motivator heading into the postseason.
“It helps greatly. You’ve got to figure they’re one of the top five teams in the state, and you’re playing them pretty much close to even,” he said. “We feel fairly good about that. We had to make some great plays to do it, but I’m hoping our kids have their heads up.”
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.
ST 7 14 0 6 – 27
MV 6 8 13 7 – 34
MV–Trenton Baughman 4 pass to Kameron Brown (Ben Padgett kick) 8:49.
ST–Jauveer Hammond 16 pass to Deandre Ryan (kick blocked) 4:39.
ST–Hammond 19 run (2-point pass Hammond to Ryan) 11:15.
MV–Daniel Carr 35 pass to Brown (Padgett kick) 6:03.
MV–Dan. Carr 11 pass to Brown (Padgett kick) :39.8.
ST–Tyree Stidem 4 run (Cole Fell kick) 5:05.
ST–Chad Gilchrist 1 run (kick blocked) :49.6.
MV–Dan. Carr 18 pass to Brown (kick failed) 8:43.
ST–Gilchrist 1 run (Fell kick) 1:07.
ST–Gilchrist 14-74-2TD, Trevonte Watkins 6-21, Hammond 20-102-1TD, Ryan 1-21, Stidem 1-2-1TD. Totals 42-220-4TD.
MV–Derrick O’Conner 10-30, Dré Carr 1-0, Baughman 2-(-15), Dan. Carr 17-55. Totals 30-70.
MV–Baughman 2-2-21-1TD-0INT, Dan. Carr 12-24-184-3TD-1INT. Totals 14-26-205-4TD-1INT.
ST–Stidem 4-31, Kendall Hill 4-72, Ryan 2-21-1TD.
MV–Christian Beecher 2-18, Brown 7-118-4TD, Stephon Morency 3-32, Baughman 2-37.
ST–Kenyatta Dunbar 1-7.