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Gamecocks blast Bobcats 42-20 in Paulson

Spotting Bluffton’s Bobcats a quick 7-0 lead in the game’s first minute, the red-hot Screven County Gamecocks of Ron Duncan roared back with 42 unanswered points over the next 34-plus minutes of play en route to a very impressive 45-20 victory. 

The Saturday night game, played in Paulson Stadium on the campus of Georgia Southern University before a large and enthusiastic crowd of SCHS supporters, was the final of four games played over two evenings as part of the sixth annual Erk Russell Classic.

A game that featured a pair of teams each ranked as high as No. 4 in at least one of the preseason polls in their respective states started like it was going to be a track meet. 

Only one team, however, was able to keep the pace set early on. Bluffton, S.C., drove 60 yards in three plays on their first possession, while SCHS drove 63 yards in three plays on the ensuing possession to answer. 

The score was 7-7 with 10:36 left in the first quarter.

Both teams committed turnovers on their second possessions before the game became controlled absolutely by Gamecocks, clad in their brand new, special occasion, gray uniforms with red trim.

Before the night was over and the second team Roosters were on the field en mass, the Red and White (actually the gray) had rolled up better than 500 yards of total offense, averaging eight yards per play. 

Maybe fired up by an extremely large Gamecock crowd on the home side of the stadium, the Gamecocks played with inspiration.

“The crowd was amazing,” beamed Duncan. “It was by far the largest of the weekend and I can tell you that the people running the Classic were extremely impressed with our crowd and programs, including our band and awesome cheerleaders. Screven County pride was on full display.”

Whatever the season may hold for them will become evident throughout the schedule, but as for the first regular-season contest the revamped offense line of Davien Perry, Derrick Arnett, Michael Johnston, JaQuez Pierce, and Chase Barnes made holes for eight different running backs to run through at an 8.5 per carry clip. 

Kim Hunter rushed for 101 yards and three scores on just nine carries. Armani Bunbury had 11 carries for 82 yards. EJ Roberson had 79 yards and a score on just six carries, while CJ Wright had 67 yards on a mere five carries.

None of the first team was not tackled behind the line all night.

Bunbury was 6-17-0 for 104 yards and a 37-yard scoring toss to Kashawn Robinson. Robinson also had a 12-yard TD run on his only carry of the night.

Tyquan Johnson had three catches for 61 yards and Michael Johnston was true on all six PATs and converted a 25-yard field goal.

Twenty different Dirty Birds found themselves in on at least one tackle led by Eli Brodnex who was in on 10. Robinson found his way into nine; Determon Cooper seven; Kendrick Cox and Treston Jamison six each; and Kim Hunter and Gary Hawkins five each. 

Johnathan Roberts and Roberson each had an interception and Brodnex had a fumble recovery.

By the time the hour had reached 11 p.m., the Gamecocks had gained a measure of revenge for a gut-wrenching 32-25 loss a year ago in the same stadium and also gotten nearly everyone that traveled with the team into the game.

“We made an effort to rotate a bunch of guys in early and I think we handled that well from a substitution stand point,” explained Duncan. “Anytime you can get those younger guys into that environment it is a good thing. That was as close to a playoff type atmosphere as you can get. It was good to empty the bench late, but Bluffton has so many weapons you get nervous because the last thing you want is for it to get sloppy at the end. I thought those guys went out and did a decent job. It will give us the chance to evaluate them on film and make corrections.”

Following a scrimmage the prior Friday that saw Effingham County complete three long passes, the inauspicious beginning -- a 59-yard completion on the game’s first play -- had to worry the large Red and White clad crowd.

“We knew when we pressured we would leave our corners isolated against some unbelievably talented receivers,” said Duncan. “We had a breakdown in our blitz that contributed to that big play. It was the last blitz called of the night.” 

The next three plays -- a 22-yard run by Wright, a 16-yard completion from Bunbury to Johnson, and a 25-yard scoring jaunt by Hunter -- helped to settle the fans down.

“One thing that has been a trademark of this group is how many times they have answered an opponent score on the following possession,” Duncan said. “Saturday night was no different. These kids are a very resilient bunch.”

Following the turnover on their second drive, the Roosters had consecutive first-half scoring drives of 66 in four plays; 82 in seven plays; 49 in one play; and 76 in nine plays. 

SCHS will now have a week off to prepare for a visit by the Devils of Wade Hampton, S.C. The Devils fell in overtime Friday night 39-33 t start their 2017 campaign 0-1.

As for the win over Bluffton, Duncan said, “I felt we had really good plans on both sides of the ball and I thought the players executed the plans well. We had several miscues in each facet of the game and we will have to correct those.”