SOUTH AIKEN 23, AIKEN 6
South Aiken's defense held on until the offense could get going, and the T-Breds won 23-6 for their second-straight Battle of Aiken victory over rival Aiken High School.
The T-Breds (3-8, 2-3 Region 5-AAAA) limited the Hornets (1-10, 0-5) to 188 total yards of offense and got a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown from senior linebacker and North-South All-Star Game selection Will Holbrook.
“We just knew that we had to keep them down; we had to shut them down,” said Holbrook, who finished the game with a team-high 14 tackles and 2½ for loss. “And we knew just had to get our offense the ball back, and they were going to break through and get it in the box.”
Neither team scored in the first quarter, but Aiken was driving when the second stanza began. They punched into the end zone on a 5-yard run by their own North-South player, Dramel Coleman, and after the extra-point attempt was blocked by Rasool Clemons, the Hornets had a 6-0 lead.
The ensuing South Aiken drive had a promising start, as the home team got a first down for the first time in the game and progressed past midfield. The drive didn't end well, though, as fullback Ryan McNutt coughed up a fumble on what would've been a first-down run and gave the visitors the ball at the T-Bred 28. The South Aiken defense stood tall, and Holbrook intercepted a pass by Bryson Jones – starting for injured senior Caleb Heath – and took it the distance.
“It was a cool moment, and I'm going to remember that for the rest of my life,” said of the play that gave his team all the points it would need against a rival.
Aiken had to punt on the next drive, and a poor kick followed by a good return gave the T-Breds the ball back on the Hornet 12. They actually went backward, but Owen Myers tucked in a 41-yard field goal to give the home team a 10-6 halftime lead despite a deficit in time of possession.
In all, Aiken ran 36 plays to only 16 for South Aiken in the first half.
“It was big to get that interception, that pick-6, but I was really proud of them,” head coach Jeremy West said of the defensive unit that had to keep an eye on Coleman and Nakeem Spann. “Our defense did a great job holding them all night. And offensively, we knew it was only a matter of time, we could get our rhythm going, and we could score some points.”
On the opening drive of the second half, South Aiken did just that. Behind a balanced attack that included a 36-yard throw and catch from Bo Baldwin to Skyler Lightbody, the T-Breds went down and scored on a 2-yard run by Adam Allen.
That put the Hornets in a 17-6 hole, but the next kickoff made the 11-point deficit look even bigger. Coleman, who has been a catalyst on both sides of the ball, returned the kick but took a blow to the back that took him out for the rest of the game.
“When they see their leader go down like that, I think it took a lot out of them,” Aiken head coach Brian Neal said. “That's kind of a turning point in the game where we could've went either way. We could've made a run at them or not.”
Neal said he didn't have any solid diagnosis beyond a back injury that did not appear to be serious.
The Hornets went three-and-out, and even though the T-Breds fumbled again on their next possession, the visitors never really threatened again. A 43-yard touchdown pass from Baldwin to Matt Albertson later in the third quarter pushed the lead to its final margin.
The T-Breds had not beaten their crosstown rivals in more than 20 years, having dropped the Hornets three times total in back-to-back seasons in the 1990 and 1991 seasons. Since then, the Hornets have streaks of 14 and four consecutive wins in the series.
“That's big for our kids and this community, this school, to win two in a row because they've won quite a few in a row on us in the past,” West said. “To start our little streak, that's pretty nice.”
South Aiken still has a little hope for a berth in the Class AAAA, Division II playoffs, with brackets to be released today. Aiken's season is over, but Neal said he was happy with the group he has going forward.
The Hornets lose a good bit of talent – namely Heath, Coleman and Spann, who finished with 65 yards on 12 carries to lead the team – but will have Jones as a big part of the offense next year. The sophomore showed some promise in the spot start despite accounting for only 72 total yards, and he'll have receivers Antwan Chandler, who led th team in receiving with two catches for 50 yards, and Quamayne Simpkins as targets.
“We've got a good group of kids. I'm excited about the future,” Neal said. “We've got a lot way to go. We've got to get bigger; we've got to get stronger in the weight room. ... Our skills groups are good, but we've got to get bigger and stronger up front.”
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.
AIK 0 6 0 0 – 6
SA 0 10 13 0 – 23
AIK–Dramel Coleman 5 run (kick blocked) 10:49.
SA–Will Holbrook 35 interception return (Owen Myers kick) 6:43.
SA–Myers 41 field goal. 1:37.
SA–Adam Allen 2 run (Myers kick) 7:22.
SA–Bo Baldwin 43 pass (kick failed) 1:12.
AIK–Bryson Jones 12-26, Nakeem Spann 12-65, Terrell Lewis 11-20, Coleman 4-0-1TD, Jaylen Smith 3-29, Brayton Sanders 1-2. Totals 43-132-1TD.
SA–Allen 15-75-1TD, Damian Brown 11-64, Ryan McNutt 2-11, Baldwin 6-(-8), Albertson 1-13, Marvin Hammond 2-8, Taivon Garvin 1-0. 38-163-1TD.
AIK–Antwan Chandler 2-50, Spann 1-0, Smith 1-(-4).
SA–Albertson 2-49-1TD, Will Holbrook 1-5, Skyler Lightbody 1-36, Sammy Huyn 1-(-2), Darius Parker 1-16, Ahkeem Adams 1-16.
Staff photo by Artie Walker Aiken's Dramel Coleman (12) scores the Hornets' only touchdown against South Aiken. He later left the game with a back injury.×
Staff photo by Artie Walker South Aiken’s Matt Albertson catches a 43-yard touchdown pass against the defense of Aiken’s Jaylen Smith.×
Staff photo by Artie Walker Aiken's Trevon Butler leads the charge to sack South Aiken quarterback Bo Baldwin (11).×