Dutch Fork Ends Gaffney’s Season
As we all know, the last time Gaffney and Dutch Fork got together, the Indians overcame a 19-7 deficit over the final quarter to defeat the Silver Foxes’ and snap their run of 5 straight state championships (all five 5A state titles since the classification was first introduced in the state of SC back in 2016) as well as their 62 game win streak, defeating them 22-19 to claim the 2021 5A state title. To quote a popular meme derived from “The Last Dance” documentary about Michael Jordan, it would appear as though Tom Knotts and the Silver Foxes said “…and I took that personally.”
Knotts, for all of the success he has had since he came to Dutch Fork, had never beaten Gaffney, having lost to them in the 2012 4A state championship as well as last year. So, he was particularly eager to get revenge, stating “I don’t like losing to people too many times. I’m definitely motivated to win this game.”
Unfortunately, for the Indians, the third time was the charm for Coach Knotts, as he and his team got exactly what they wanted.
The Silver Foxes, in much the same fashion as in the state title game last year, jumped out to an early lead, but this time, it was only 3-0, as they took their opening drive of the game down to the Gaffney 17.
The Indians responded in the best way possible, as they drove 91 yards, taking their only lead of the game on a 66 yard TD catch and run off play action down the near sideline by “Suga” Jefferies. The PAT was blocked, making it 6-3 with 6:18 to play in the 1st quarter.
From there, the Foxes went on to score 21 unanswered on a pair of rushing TDs from QB Aliam Appler and a 39 yard TD reception on a screen pass to Jarvis Green to go up 24-6 late in the 2nd quarter.
If anything that characterizes this Gaffney team, it is that they are no strangers to adversity and playing from behind, and that they do not quit fighting. Needing a response, the Indians managed to strike again, capping a 74 yard drive on a TD pass where Loftis scrambled on 4th and 15 and found Jamarcus Smith in the corner of the end zone for a TD, and despite the 2 point try falling incomplete, the deficit was cut to 24-13.
Dutch Fork answered with a long drive of their own, marching 63 yards to score on a 17 yard pass from Appler to Isaiah Jones. Kaliner Hoey blocked the PAT, leading to what would be a 30-12 halftime hole for the Indians, who would be receiving the 2nd half kick.
The Indians took full advantage of the opening possession of the 2nd half, marching 75 yards and scoring on a 2 yard TD pass on the run from Loftis to Jamarcus Smith on 4th and goal. Loftis hit Suga Jefferies on the 2 point conversion to make it a 10 point game with 7:13 to play in the 3rd.
Just when you think it is a game again, Gaffney inflicted another wound on themselves. The ensuing kickoff was fielded by Jarvis Green, and, well.. He did Jarvis Green things, returning the kick 80 yards to make it 37-20.
The Indians’ ensuing drive stalled out at their own 25, and this time special teams ended up coming back to bite again. A short punt sailed out at the Silver Fox 46 yardline. That led to a 23 yard TD pass to go up 44-20, which sent many Indian fans for the turnstiles, and started a mock Tomahawk Chop on the visitors’ side.
Still, the Indians didn’t just take it, answering with a 31 yard TD pass from Loftis to Drew Medley in double coverage in the back of the endzone. After Grayson Loftis connected with Emazon Littlejohn for the 2 point conversion, the Indians cut it down to 44-28.
Now for a quick phrase that pretty well summarizes what ended up happening –
“If ifs and buts were candies and nuts”…
Dutch Fork muffed the ensuing kickoff and it was recovered by the Indians in plus territory at the Silver Fox 42. They had a chance to cut it to a 1 score game.
The momentum of the game shifted back to the Foxes as the Indians were faced with a 4th and 3 at the Dutch Fork 6 yardline. Grayson Loftis rolled to his left and tried to hit a receiver in the near corner of the end zone. While the argument for pass interference could have been made, the reality is that the receiver never turned around and made an effort to catch it, and the ball hit him in the back and fell to the turf, handing it to Dutch Fork on downs, and leading to the kill shot for the Foxes. Dutch Fork went 94 yards and put in the dagger on an 8 yard TD run by Jarvis Green that made for what would be the final score – 51 to 28, securing the Silver Foxes’ 9th trip to the state championship game in 11 years.
The obvious “if” – had Gaffney scored and made it a 1 score game, they were a stop and a drive away from potentially being able to go down the field and complete the comeback.
The reality is, Dutch Fork is a GOOD football team (We all know this. They only got way better as the season went along and had the best player in the state), and beating them was going to take nothing short of a near perfect effort. That is where Gaffney came up short.
Gaffney had 2 instances where they managed to help the Silver Foxes maintain drives by committing 2 personal fouls in one play, both of which led to TDs. Grayson Loftis’ lone mistake turned out to be costly as his lone pick ended up leading to a TD. Kicking to Jarvis Green came back to bite them as he went all the way for a TD. They turned the ball over on downs twice, once with a chance to make it a 1 score game. It is overstating the obvious to state that you cannot afford to dig into a hole against a team like Dutch Fork and get away with it.
While the result is obviously not what Gaffney fans were hoping for, the Indians overcame a lot this season and the fanbase has plenty of reason to be proud of their “Boys of Fall”. From the season-opening loss to South Pointe, the loss to Mallard Creek, the struggles with Hammond and Boiling Springs, the Indians overcame a lot to win 5 in a row, win the region championship, and then make it all the way to the upperstate championship round, getting revenge on Byrnes for their lone region loss to do it.
That wraps up the 2022 high school football season in our area. It was a wild one, and with the wealth of young talent in our schools that emerged this season, we are in for a fun couple of years. There is plenty to be excited about and if you just cannot wait, Week Zero will be here in a blink of an eye.