Wardlaw Patriots come up short of title
W.W. King ACADEMY 58, WARDLAW ACADEMY 20
SALUDA — Wardlaw Academy managed to advance to the SCISA 8-Man State Championship Game despite injuries to multiple key players throughout the year. As it turned out, the losses proved to be too much in the title game, as W.W. King defeated the Patriots 58-20.
Despite the loss, head coach Mark Rodgers was proud of his team’s effort.
“As I told them, it’s probably one of the best teams because we didn’t have the showcase horse that most folks have in the state championship,” he said. “We had 21 folks that fought to get here, and they fought tonight.”
Unfortunately for Rodgers’ squad, King (13-1) did have that feature player, and he put on a show at Saluda High School’s Bettis Herlong stadium.
Junior quarterback Alex Berry hurt Wardlaw (10-3) in a variety of ways, racking up 175 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 15 carries while completing all 12 passes he attempted for 183 yards and two more scores.
“He came to play,” Rodgers said of the Berry, who wears jersey No. 11 for the Knights. “No doubt about it, 11 came to play.”
First-year King head coach Zach Matthews said that Berry was only able to participate in about half a practice this week. In last week’s home win over Clarendon Hall, Matthews said that Berry got “beat up” in a physical matchup.
“I mean, just a tremendous athlete. What can I say?” said an overwhelmed Matthews. “He threw a knee brace on tonight and went to work.”
After Wardlaw settled for the game’s only punt in its opening possession, King raced out to a 12-0 lead in the first quarter on a pair of Berry runs, first a 45-yard run and then a 2-yard run. In between that, the Knights’ unorthodox kickoff strategy – directing the ball to a variety of depths and angles – paid off when the Patriots were unable to recover a kick to the second row of the return formation.
Late in the opening frame, Wardlaw went on the move, and senior Holton Manly scampered in for a 3-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter. The teams traded scores in the second quarter, with Berry connecting on a 20-yard screen and run to Price Carpenter before Manly chipped in a 5-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 18-14 with 49 seconds left in the half.
The Patriots were unable to take momentum into the break, as the Knights moved down the field to score on another screen from Berry to Price, this time from 24 yards out. Berry picked off a Manly deep effort as the half ended to preserve a 24-14 lead at the break with the Knights set to receive the second half’s opening kick.
The second quarter was also costly because Wardlaw sophomore quarterback Ed Williams left the game with an apparent rib injury suffered on defense. His absence on that side of the ball as a linebacker would be missed, as Wardlaw had already lost a couple contributors in that unit to injury recently.
“We had to think on our feet ... and we had Holton as a luxury to go back to,” Rodgers said of the player who started full-time as the team’s signal caller during last year’s state title run. “It hurt us more on defense than it did overall.”
King took its first possession of the second half down the field and scored on a 4-yard run by Berry, but Wardlaw answered with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Manly to lineman-sized tight end Justin Richburg. The Knights didn’t take long to respond, as Blake Sauls took the ensuing kickoff 65 yards for a touchdown after colliding with a teammate at the start of the return.
Manly fumbled an exchange on the next Patriot possession, and that helped spark the 26-0 run the Knights used to turn the game from a back-and-forth affair into a blowout.
“We just knew we couldn’t turn the ball over,” Rodgers said. Manly, who ran for 78 yards and two touchdowns while completing 7 of 13 passes for 52 yards, also threw an interception early in the fourth quarter with the team trailing by 24 points and in need of big plays.
For the Knights, it was the first football state championship in school history, coming against the two-time defending champions. Matthews was in awe of the accomplishment, citing the efforts of past coaches and players alike.
“I can’t describe it. I don’t know what I feel like right now,” he said. “It’s amazing.”
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.
W 0 14 6 0 – 20
K 12 12 20 14 – 58
K–Alex Berry 45 run (2-point pass failed) 8:14.
K–Berry 2 run (2-point run failed) 6:34.
W–Holton Manly 3 run (2-point pass failed) 11:54.
K–Berry 20 pass to Price Carpenter (2-point pass failed) 7:07.
W–Manly 5 run (2-point run Manly): 49.8.
K–Berry 24 pass to Carpenter (2-point pass failed): 16.2.
K–Berry 4 run (2-point pass Berry to Wyatt McDonald) 9:54.
W–Manly 16 pass to Justin Richburg (2-point run failed) 3:57.
K–Blake Sauls 65 kickoff return (2-point run failed) 3:49.
K–Berry 2 run (2-point run failed) 1:28.
K–Berry 3 run (2-point run Berry) 9:35.
K–Berry 77 run (2-point pass failed) 6:34.
W–Manly 26-78-2TD, Rycharde Coates 12-72, Daylen Morris 4-3, Jacob Baynham 4-8, Ed Williams 3-14, Jack Orrico 1-18. Totals 47-193-2TD.
K–Berry 15-175-6TD, Sauls 1-20, Carpenter 6-51, Jonathan Griffith 2-28. Totals 28-274-6TD.
W–Manly 7-13-52-1TD-2 INT.
K–Berry 12-12-183-2TD-0 INT.
W-Coates 4-22, Richburg 2-25-1TD, Orrico 1-5.
K–Sauls 2-19, Carpenter 8-145-2TD, Caleb Fulmer 2-19.
K–Berry 1-20, McDonald 1-0.