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Sandlappers Shutout Tarheels in Shrine Bowl

The nation’s oldest high school football all-star game took to the gridiron once again Saturday afternoon at Spartanburg High School’s Viking Stadium in the 87th annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas. After picking up their 2nd straight win in the series in the game’s first installment since 2019 and first-ever at Spartanburg High, the South Carolina Sandlappers came into the day looking for their series-leading 47th win all time. 

 

The game featured loads of talent on both squads, but on the South Carolina side, it included 3 local stars in Demario Bookhart (Safety, Spartanburg), Jake Buerk (Offensive Lineman from Gaffney), and Jarriel Jefferies (Defensive End, Gaffney). There were also such big names as Hanovii “Turbo” Richard (Running Back, Northwestern), Avery McFadden (Wide Receiver, Hillcrest), Dashun Reeder (RB, Christ Church), Blake Franks (O lineman, Greenville), and 2023 SC Mr. Football Josiah Thompson (OL, Dillon). 

 

With all of that offensive talent and size, you would have to expect that there would be some fireworks in this game. But, if that is your assumption, you’d be dead wrong. 

 

As is ordinarily the case, it was really the defenses that told the story of the day with the tone being set from the beginning. 

 

South Carolina won the coin toss and deferred to the 2nd half. The Tar Heels fielded the opening kickoff inside their own 10 yardline and managed to get no further as they would start at the 11. From there, the Sandlapper defense forced a quick three and out – which is a phrase that could almost accurately summarize most of the game for both sides, provided you change the team name. 

 

South Carolina’s defense forced 12 punts in this game. To put that in perspective, North Carolina had a grand total of 14 offensive possessions, and came away with just 3 first downs and finished with just 49 yards of total offense. The 2 series that did not result in a punt? A missed 52 yard field goal and an interception that would lead to a late South Carolina TD. 

 

All those punts allowed NC’s offensive MVP to shine as their lone bright spot of the day. Hough HS kicker/Punter Nolan Hauser, who is committed to Clemson, averaged 42.7 yards per punt in his 12 tries at it, with a long of 65 yards and 6 of them flipping the field by pinning the Sandlappers inside their own 20. 

 

Following the quick three and out on the opening series, South Carolina received the ball at the NC 44 yardline and marched 28 yards in 7 plays before stalling out and being held to a 33 yard field goal try by James Island Kicker/Punter Coleman Franzone. Following that series, the Sandlappers were also shut down. Out of their 15 drives, they were forced to punt 6 times, only going 3 and out three times with 4 turnovers – 2 picks, a muffed punt, and a TO on downs. 

 

The game was finally broken open at the 4:49 mark of the 3rd quarter when South Carolina offensive MVP Matthew Wilson (QB, Rock Hill — 8 for 14 with 163 yards and 2 TDs ), hit a wide open Christian Zachary (Calhoun County WR) in stride over the middle for a 43 yard TD pass. The Sandlappers only continued to add on, striking again on a 41 yard TD catch and run by Strom Thurmond WR Braylon Staley — the team leader with 62 yards on 3 catches — where Wilson hit him in the flat and he shed a would-be tackler while juking out one other to go free down the near sideline. 

 

The game’s final points came as a result of a Quay’Sheed Scott (DB, Marion) interception that he returned to the NC 3. The next play, SC’s leading rusher Traevon Dunbar, (RB, Midland Valley. 15 rushes, 76 yards, TD) punched it in for the exclamation point to the Sandlappers’ 24-0 shutout victory. 

 

“The secondary was awesome, but the whole defensive front put so much pressure on the offense that it made the secondary so good. That defensive front doesn’t get enough publicity, but they did a great job and the secondary did what they were supposed to”, said South Carolina Head Coach Wayne Farmer (Calhoun County) of his defense’s effort.

 

Realizing that it was going to have to be defense and at least one timely score that wins it, Farmer’s strategy became clear in the 2nd half. 

 

“We had 2 missed opportunities in the first half to put some points on the board. Going into halftime, we said we wanted to run the ball and move the sticks and melt the clock. It worked when we got the big pass to Christian Zachary. That was our game plan and adjustment going into the half”, said Farmer. 

 

“These guys came in on Sunday as individuals, not knowing each other outside of social media. They bonded right away. Bigger than that, they bonded and worked hard on the field. It was about business, and they worked hard and played hard. They gelled and you could see the team cohesion. I am so proud of them”, Farmer added when asked about the team chemistry, which is a sentiment reflected in one of our local Shrine Bowlers – Demario Bookhart. 

 

“It feels amazing knowing we came together as a team in just a week. You wouldn’t have been able to tell this was our only week together. We felt like one unit that has been playing all year together. Being at the hotel with the guys and enjoying our time together just being teenagers was my favorite part. And when it came to the game, it felt like I was out there on a Friday night with my guys”, said Bookhart. 

 

“It felt amazing to know I get to put on for my city and my hometown one last time on my home field. It felt great to get the shutout”, Bookhart added. 

 

With their third consecutive win in the series, the Sandlappers have upped their overall series record to 47-35-5.



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