STROM THURMOND 27, NORTH MYRTLE BEACH 17

JOHNSTON — Bad fortune seemed like it might be biting Strom Thurmond Friday night against North Myrtle Beach in the South Carolina High School League Class AAA playoffs.


With the Rebels’ quarterback and leader Jauveer Hammond receiving attention for a mild ankle injury, they punted away with only a three-point lead. A few plays later, defensive end Lyndon Lowery jumped on the ball after a botched snap, and Deondre Ryan punched in an 8-yard touchdown run – with Hammond back in the game – to push the game to its final margin at 27-17 in Strom Thurmond’s favor.


“Lyndon’s just so quick. I mean, he was in there before they could ... kid tried to bend the ball up, and he just knifed in there and got it,” Rebel head coach Lee Sawyer said of the play, which saw Chief quarterback Kendrick Furness mishandle the snap before attempting to make a play on the ball instead of falling on it.


Both defenses played solid in the game’s opening possessions. North Myrtle Beach (9-3) took the opening kickoff, but Strom Thurmond (11-1) limited the visitors to a three-and-out before gaining only one first down on its first possession.


The first Rebel drive allowed the Chiefs to showcase one of their defensive strengths, playing in the offensive backfield. Keyshawn Moore, who came into the game leading the visitors in sacks with seven and tackles for loss with 22, dropped Hammond for a 4-yard sack and Delonte Bates for a 2-yard loss to put the brakes on the Rebels.


“It really limited us throwing the ball,” Sawyer said of the pressure. “They did a great job defending us. Our defense did a great job defending them.”


The Rebels showed that defensive prowess on the next possession, forcing another punt that pinned the Strom Thurmond offense at its own 14-yard line. That didn’t stop Hammond, who led the Rebels on an 86-yard drive capped by a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jequez Harris to put the Rebels on top 7-0.


The senior completed his first seven passes and finished the night 11-of-17 for 117 yards, a touchdown and an interception.


After forcing another three-and-out that included a sack by Montrez Coleman, the Rebels went on the move but had to settle for a 27-yard Cole Fell field goal.


The Chiefs answered with a 70-yard drive and a 4-yard touchdown pass from Furness to Tyrique Robinson, but the Rebels added another field goal – from 28 yards out this time – to take a 13-7 lead into the half.


Sawyer said he wasn’t completely comfortable with the six-point margin, but getting points on those drives proved to be key in the win.


“Even though we didn’t get touchdowns, I thought the two field goals were huge,” he said.


Hammond gave the Rebels breathing room at the end of the Rebels’ opening drive of the second half with a 5-yard run, but the Rebel defense made one of few mistakes on the ensuing Chief possession. After penalties knocked the visitors back to a second-and-20 situation, they gained 14 yards on a pass from Furness to Cameron Gore before Furness found Robinson for a 60-yard touchdown to bring the score to 20-14.


“I hate we gave up that big play,” Sawyer said. “That was the only thing we were harping on all week was not giving up the home run ball, and we gave up a big one there and kind of got them back into it.”


On the ensuing Rebel possession, the pressure got to Hammond again, and he threw up a wild pass that was picked off by Jordan Perry. Christian Buis drilled home a 35-yard field goal, and the game was tight at 20-17 heading into the fourth quarter.


The Rebels had to punt their next time out, but their defense stood tall. On third-and-17, senior linebacker Kenyatta Dunbar and junior nose guard Chad Stevens led a group of Rebels to sack Furness and end the drive.


“My line, they just did a good job executing and running the play, and it was just all-out blitz, and I was able to shake the defender and get open and make a sack,” Dunbar said, before crediting Stevens. “He made a good play, too, holding him up, and I came in and finished it off.”


The Rebels got the ball back on a punt, but Hammond came out with an ankle injury to give the Chiefs hope despite being pinned on the 1-yard line. They got a first down on a screen pass to Delonzo Williams’ before the botched snap that Lowery gobbled up. Even though the Rebels scored on Ryan’s run to get a 10-point lead that proved to be enough, four minutes still remained on the clock.


With the visitors looking to mount a comeback, Dunbar wrestled away what would have been a completion close to the first-down marker for his third interception in three weeks, all late in the game.


“The pick by Kenyatta was unbelievable,” Sawyer said of the Gardner-Webb commit. “I mean, he just, basically just took it away from him. That was a heck of a play in a crucial situation.”


The Rebels were able to run out the clock from there. Next week, they’ll host Myrtle Beach (8-4), which knocked off Crestwood 31-27 to give Strom Thurmond another home game. Dunbar said that, regardless of where his next game was going to be played, he wasn’t ready to see his high school career end.


“This couldn’t be my last game. I didn’t want it to be my last game,” he said. “I was going to do whatever I had to do to pull it out.”


Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.


NMB 0 7 10 0 – 17


ST 7 6 7 7 – 27


SCORING SUMMARY


First Quarter


ST–Jauveer Hammond 20 pass to Jequez Harris (Cole Fell kick): 21.6.


Second Quarter


ST–Fell 27 field goal 6:31.


NMB–Kendrick Furness 4 pass to Tyrique Robinson (Christian Buis kick) 2:15.


ST–Fell 28 field goal: 42.5.


Third Quarter


ST–Hammond 5 run (Fell kick) 8:48.


NMB–Furness 60 pass to Robinson (Buis kick) 8:16.


NMB–Buis 35 field goal: 57.


Fourth Quarter


ST–Deondre Ryan 8 run (Fell kick) 4:13.


INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS


RUSHING


NMB–Delonzo Williams 11-31, Furness 15-59, Laquinn Bellamy 2-2. Totals 28-92.


ST–Hammond 22-138-1TD, Chad Gilchrist 18-111, Delonte Bates 5-2, Travonte Watkins 3-2, Ryan 1-8-1TD. Totals 49-261-2TD.


PASSING


NMB–Furness 13-22-177-2TD-1 INT.


ST–Hammond 11-17-117-1TD-1INT, Tyree Stidem 0-1-0-0TD-0 INT. Totals 11-18-117-1TD-1 INT.


RECEIVING


NMB-Williams 3-18, Jordan Perry 1-0, Cameron Gore 3-42, Robinson 5-110-2TD, Kyle Cooper 1-7.


ST–Gilchrist 2-12, Kendall Hill 5-57, Ryan 1-8, Harris 1-20-1TD, Stidem 2-23.


INTERCEPTIONS


NMB–Perry 1-4.


ST–Kenyatta Dunbar 1-0.