Round 3 Recap
A playoff that started with 10 of our local teams is suddenly down to just one. I’ll go ahead and “spoil” it for you, since you probably knew already (or figured it was going to be).. It is the Gaffney Indians. Despite all of that, it has been a good, wild, and fun season for all of our local teams – and with the incredibly talented youth at Spartanburg, Broome, Boiling Springs, Gaffney, Chapman, Chesnee, etc, the next few years of high school football in our area are looking like they will be epic.
Anyway, despite it being a week with just 3 games, of which 2 were not very pretty in the end, let’s look at what happened.
Gaffney 34 Byrnes 28
In a season where the “Typical Gaffney Fashion” has looked a little bit different, the Indians have managed to make it all the way to the Upper state championship game. In order to get there, they had to go through a rivalry rematch with the red-hot Byrnes Rebels, who upset them at Nixon Field in the regular season finale back in week 10.
The buildup to this game ended up being more interesting than it actually played out – unless you like lots of punts. There was a bit of extracurricular activity following pregame warmups when as Byrnes was walking across the field back to their locker room, Gaffney players went over to them and chirped, starting a war of words between the 2 rivals, allegedly instigated by the removal of 2 letters from the word “Indians” on the padding on the base of the goalpost. Fortunately, no punches were thrown during the exchange, but it got the Reservation Rowdies ready to live up to the “Reservation Reputation.”
The ballgame itself was a defensive slugfest, particularly on Gaffney’s end. The Indians’ defensive front, in particular Brayshawn Littlejohn, Nathan Johnson, as well as defensive lineman Caron Foster, made life difficult for Byrnes QBs Colby Shaw and Andrew Stevens. They were sacked just 4 times. But found themselves flushed from the pocket quite a bit.
Credit to Byrnes’ defense as well. The Rebels very well could have laid down and lost by 40. Especially given how the game started out. Gaffney held them to a 3 and out. On the Indians’ first play from scrimmage of the ensuing series, Grayson Loftis hit Drew Medley over the top in stride down the sideline (something that happens regularly. Medley has flown under the radar this season, but is easily one of the best and most reliable deep ball threats in our area. He catches everything thrown his way and has the speed to get open downfield quickly) for the first of 3 long snags he hauled in (2 for a TD) for a 40 yard TD. Despite missing the PAT, Byrnes muffed the kickoff to set Gaffney up with a short field.
Enter the Rebel defense. They did not break, and forced a turnover on downs to keep it a 6-0 game. After an exchange of punts, Gaffney went up 13-0 on a 2 yard TD run by Andrew Ruppe – the first of 2 from the big sophomore linebacker.
Needing some sort of answer, Armoni Weaver stepped up and made a big play on special teams to get the Rebels on the board, returning the kickoff for a 68 yard TD. From there, the defense took over. Both teams would punt twice before Gaffney went up 20-7 going into the half on a 4 yard TD run by Andrew Ruppe to cap an 8 play 76 yard drive.
The “punt fest” resumed in the 3rd quarter as both combined for 5 more drives ending in nothing before Gaffney’s Nathan Johnson strip-sacked Andrew Stevens and Caron Foster picked it up for an easy 6 yard scoop-n-score to make it 27-7.
Still, the Rebels did not give up. They responded with a 10 play 65 yard drive that took the final 5 minutes of the 3rd quarter, capping it with a 17 yard TD catch and run on a dump pass to Ethan Morris.
After an exchange of.. You guessed it.. Punts to start the 4th quarter, the Indians struck again with a 66 yard TD pass to.. You guessed it.. Drew Medley in stride down the sideline.
Enter Armoni Weaver on special teams again. He returned the kick 47 yards to set Byrnes up deep in plus territory. Three plays later, Colby Shaw cut it to a 2 score game to cap a 25 yard drive with an 8 yard TD run. Despite recovering the onside kick, the Gaffney defense forced a turnover on downs, giving the Indans the ball at the Rebel 44. But it would not hurt Byrnes as once again their defense kept them in the game, forcing Gaffney to turn it over on downs at the Rebel 33.
Byrnes took full advantage of the tired Gaffney defense, putting together a 67 yard TD drive, capped on a 28 yard connection from Shaw to Chamarryus Bomar in the near corner of the endzone, making it a 1 score game with under a minute to play.
In the end, Gaffney recovered the onside kick and held on to win a game that really was not as close as the scoreboard says or as offensive as the stats would lead you to believe. 15 combined punts. Dismal showings from both teams on 3rd and 4th down. Most of the total offense came on 3 long pass plays for Gaffney. Byrnes had 1 first down on offense in the first half that was not on a penalty. Make no mistake. It was not a pretty game. But, in “Typical Gaffney Fashion”, good teams find ways to win when it matters most.
Now, Gaffney will host Dutch Fork in what will hopefully be an epic rematch of last season’s epic 5A state championship game.
Dutch Fork 63 Spartanburg 14
In week 1 of the season, on a night plagued with heavy rain and lightning delays, these 2 teams had an epic showdown in which the Vikings went toe to toe with the Silver Foxes and it came down to a walkoff fieldgoal (mind you, not as epic as the one TCU had to beat Baylor..).
That was early this season. Naturally, you’d expect 13 weeks later that with both teams only getting better over the course of the season, that this rematch would be incredible.
*Spoiler alert* – it wasn’t.
That is a testament to just how good Dutch Fork is. The Silver Foxes, even as a 1-dimensional offense against the Vikings earlier this season when QB Aliam Appler was injured, were unbelievably good. When you have Jarvis Green in your backfield, who is by and large the best player in the state, you are going to be good regardless.. Last night, Appler played, and the Foxes showed that they only got 10 times better as the season went along.
It was a 1 score game after a quarter before the Foxes scored 35 unanswered in the 2nd (part of a 42-0 run).
While it did not go the way Vikings fans may have hoped, you cannot help but be encouraged with the future. TJ Johnson, KeKe Kelly, etc, will all be fun to watch for the next couple of years. Mark Hodge has this program up to where it should be. A loss, even in this fashion, to the best program in the state that has been a well-oiled machine for a decade now, does not change that.
Clinton 49 Chapman 27
The Chapman Panthers have been playing their best football all season over the last 7 weeks. Even with that, to go into Wilder Stadium and knock off Clinton was going to be a tall task. Chapman was going to need to run the ball with the level of success they have been the last 2 weeks, while sustaining drives and keeping Clinton off the field. They were also going to have to find a way to prevent the Red Devils from breaking off big plays.
They did just that.. For a quarter and some change. The Panthers drew first blood on a 25 yard TD pass from Coleman Gray to Shawn Cunningham with 2:42 to play in the 1st quarter, and led 7-0 going to the 2nd stanza.
After a Bryson James TD run to tie it at 7, the Panthers once again took the lead on a 62 yard pass from Gray to Devin Roe for a TD, capping a 3 play 64 yard drive.
That was it.. From there, Clinton turned on the jets and never looked back. The Devils hung 39 unanswered to run away with it. Literally. They had 3 different ball carriers put up triple digit yardage. Bryson James logged 151 with 4 TDs. Jayden Robinson had 146 with 1 touchdown. Jishun Copeland added another 130 with a pair of scores.
Chapman did muster 2 more scores in the 4th quarter. Shawn Cunningham was the man for both, with one being a 61 yard TD run and the other a 23 yard receiving TD.
The Panthers were led by Cunningham in both rushing and receiving with 70 rushing yards and 7 catches for 80 yards with 2 TDs. Devin Roe hauled in 4 passes for 119 yards with a TD. Coleman Gray was 12 of 17 for 218 yards, 3 TDs, and a pick.
Again, while it was not ideal for Chapman, you cannot complain too much. These guys made it further than they ever have since Harry Cabaniss came along, and with the talent returning, they can be competitive for the next few years.
This season has been a fun one, and thanks to Gaffney, it continues for another week. Best of luck to the Indians as they host Dutch Fork in what will hopefully be a fun one in The Reservation on Black Friday. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!