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Gamecocks lay waste to Warriors, repeat as 4AA champions

Running off to a 17-0 first quarter lead and utilizing three long second half scoring plays the still-undefeated Screven County High School Gamecocks of Coach Ron Duncan once again routed the undefeated Jefferson County Warriors to claim the Region 4AA title for a second year in a row, this time on the grass of Kelly Memorial Stadium.

With their 44-20 victory in hand, the Roosters will now host the Region 3AA fourth-seeded Washington County Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in the opening round of the GHSA state playoffs. Tickets will be $8 each and booster club passes will not be honored.

The game was originally scheduled for Saturday evening at the same time after Washington County was involved in a three-team mini regional playoff Monday, but moved to Friday, Nov. 10, by school officials on Tuesday morning.

From opening the game with a three play, 74-yard scoring drive that took less than a minute to their final touch of the ball which was an 80-yard kickoff return for a score by Armani Bunbury (which took 15 seconds) the Gamecocks led and were in control of the game. 

With maybe the largest regular season crowd in the history of Kelly Memorial Stadium (nearly 900 tickets sold at the visitors gate alone) on hand the game marked back-to-back seasons in which the Roosters brought an end to the Warriors’ dreams of a 10-0 regular season. It was the 18th consecutive regular season win for the Red and White.

“It was a great atmosphere,” said Duncan of the crowd. “It is awesome to be in a place that cares so much about our young people. We need the same amount the next few weeks.  This will be the toughest playoff draw we have ever had.

A 25-yard kickoff return by Tyquan Johnson got the game started and the first alignment of the game was a five-yard encroachment penalty on the visitors. What followed was a 24-yard run by Kim Hunter, a personal foul on Jeffco, an incomplete pass, a 13-yard run by CJ Wright, and a 17-yard scoring jaunt by Hunter.  With Michael Johnston’s PAT with 11:02 on the clock SCHS was up 7-0.

“I think scoring early was big,” said Duncan.  “They have not been in a situation where they really trailed and starting like we did and after what we did to them last year (49-34 in a game not nearly that close); you could get a sense of them being out of their comfort zone.”

An exchange of punts later, the latter a 50 yarder by Teviyon Mingle, and Jeffco was again lined up to punt.  This time the snap sailed over the punter’s head and resulted in a safety when he kicked the ball out of the end zone. When Johnson took the ensuing free kick back to the JCHS 38, the Gamecocks covered the yardage in seven plays (all on the ground) to reach 15-0 when Wright bulled in from four yards out with 1:47 still on the first quarter clock.  EJ Roberson took in a two point conversion and suddenly the count was an incredible 17-0.

Even when the visitor’s scored on their ensuing possession a 75-yard kickoff return by Johnathan Roberts put the ball on the JCHS 15 and two plays later Hunter had his second score and with the Johnston’s PAT it was 24-7 not even two minutes into the second quarter.  Every time the Warriors scored the Gamecocks had an answer.

There was no more first half scoring, but there was plenty of interest. 

Jeffco reached the SCHS 24.  On second and seven Kendrick Cox tackled the QB for a six yard loss and things turned around. The Warriors turned the ball over on downs two plays later.  A possession later when JCHS appeared to have a 59 yard scoring toss the play was called back because of a blatant, for everyone to see, holding call on the Jeffco right tackle as he tried to slow Cox down. 

The guests never truly recovered.

While the Gamecocks limited themselves to just 3 penalties for 25 yards the Warriors were guilty of 11 for 105 yards, none bigger than the holding penalty that negated the score.  On that fact Duncan said, “I told our guys before we left the locker room that mistakes were going to happened, but we had to eliminate the stupid mistakes.”

The second half was a tale of huge plays by the home team.  Following a sack by Cox, Eli Brodnex ended the opening second half drive when he picked off a CJ Hales pass and returned it for 58 yards and a pick-six. 

After stopping the Warriors at the SCHS 22 on the next possession, Roberson took an option pitch from Bunbury and raced 78 yards for a touchdown and the score was 37-7.

An exchange of possessions of later (an over on downs for Jeffco and a three and out by SCHS), the Warriors finally dented the scoreboard again with 7:20, and a running clock, to go.  Bunbury drove the final dagger into their hearts when he took the ensuing kick at the SCHS 20 and sprinted the distance into the end zone.   On the subject of the big plays Duncan said, “Big time players make big time plays in the big time games.”

Entering the contest with six consecutive shutouts, the Dirty Birds allowed points for the first time in two months but no doubt played their best game of the season.  Jeffco was averaging 52 per game; they scored 20 and the final score on the game’s final play came with many second teamers in on defense.  Even in the region championship game all SCHS starters did not finish the fourth quarter.

“I’m not sure it was our best,” continued Duncan.  “I think it was a good performance against a quality team.  After watching film and meeting with the coaches, we feel as though we made a lot of mistakes and can play a lot better. I thought we had a good plan and I thought our players executed it well.”

Leading the defensive effort was linebacker Kashawn Robinson who was tasked with following the dual threat quarterback of Hales and Jaden Jenkins. The senior, who leads the team in tackles with 87, was in on 16.  Also with big numbers were Roberson (9), Wright (8), Brodnex (8), Roberts (7), and Cox (7).  Pressure off the edge by numerous SCHS defensive linemen, especially Cox and Wright, never allowed the signal callers to get comfortable.

Offensively, there were no big individual numbers but they were all significant as the unit still averaged 7.9 per play. Roberson had five carries for 90 yards, Hunter eight for 74 and Wright nine for 49. The offensive line of Davien Perry, Derrick Arnett, Johnson, JaQuez Pierce, and Chase Barnes did well against the college-size defensive line of the Warriors.

Sometimes numbers in football mean things and sometimes they don’t.  Friday night many of them meant nothing.  Jefferson County controlled the ball for 31:28 of the 48 minutes and ran 68 plays to the Gamecocks’ 29.  In the second half Bunbury took four snaps while the Jeffco QB combo took 41yet the Roosters outscored the Warriors 20-13 in the half.