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Gamecocks roll on, down Washington County 42-7

Offensively scoring 14 points in the first 86 seconds of the game and forcing five turnovers on the defensive side of the ball, the Screven County Gamecocks of Coach Ron Duncan rolled to a 42-7 victory over the Washington County Golden Hawks in the opening round of the GHSA Class AA state playoffs on Nov. 10. 

Raising their record to 10-0 in first-round games at Kelly Memorial Stadium under the current playoff format, the Roosters will now host 2AA runner-up Toombs County Friday night in a second round playoff matchup.

Ticket prices are set at $10 by the GHSA and athletic booster passes will not be honored.

With the now 10-0 Gamecocks hosting the Golden Hawks for the first time since the state championship game of 1994 and facing them for the first time since the second round of the 1996 state playoffs, the rosters favored the Red and White this go around. 

Armani Bunbury streaked 79 yards for a score on an option keeper on the first play of the game and five plays later CJ Wright bulled in from the one. Wright’s score followed Gary Hawkins’ recovery of a fumbled punt snap at the one. Michael Johnston’s pair of PATs put the count at 14-0 with 10:34 still on the first quarter clock.

“This was just as important as last week (the fast start against Jefferson County),” said Duncan. “Washington County has had a lot of bad breaks this year so their psyche was probably a little fragile. So getting up early was big.” 

For the starting defense, there was another shutout as the lone Hawk score came against the second team at the 2:00 mark of the final stanza that, for the eighth consecutive game, featured a running clock. 

While the Dirty Birds had trouble getting off the field -- WaCo held a better than 15-minute advantage on the clock through three quarters (a 20-plus minute advantage overall) -- the unit was still, as with Jefferson County two weeks ago, most effective when it counted.

Asked if it bothered him that the defense was spending so much time on the field, “I’m not bothered by it all,” Duncan answered. “Waco has a good team. I’m not sure people realize how hard they were to get ready for. They had our full attention and it took all of it. We have made some big plays so things like time of possession and that sort of thing gets thrown out the window. There is only one stat that matters and that is what is on the scoreboard at the end of the game. We have jumped out big the last few weeks, so we could afford to not take many chances on defense.”
Of four interceptions from a secondary with just five on the season coming in, two (Johnathan Roberts and Eli Brodnex) came with the Golden Hawks inside the Gamecock 10-yard line, while a pair by Nick Clifton came in the middle of the field. All were tremendously significant. 

“The interceptions were big,” said Duncan. “Our guys made some big plays.” 

Facing a team with the strength to run at the heart of the Dirty Birds, the SCHS interior responded well. 

Middle linebacker Kashawn Robinson was in on 19 tackles; tackle CJ Wright 16; linebackers Determon Cooper and Gary Hawkins 11 and 10, respectively; ends Nick Garvin and Kendrick Cox 11 and seven, respectively; and tackle Davien Perry six.

As was the region championship contest there were few possessions by the Gamecock offense, which despite limited opportunities, cashed in frequently. 

Of eight completed possessions, six resulted in scores. Of six scoring drives, three were one play each; another was two plays; and still another was three plays. The other was eight plays.

For the second week in a row, the offense ran just 29 plays. That 29 compared to 67 by WaCo. The SCHS group averaged 13.3 yards per snap to make up for the lack of snaps.

A week ago Duncan said that “big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games” about his offensive unit. He could have said the same thing about round one of the state playoffs.

“I was happy with how we played,” Duncan said. “The effort was outstanding. Our guys knew it was going to be a tough, physical game. I thought we went in with the right mindset.”

Beyond the opening TD runs by Bunbury and by Wright, Bunbury also had scoring runs of 23 and three, while Hawkins, only his only carry of the night, had another from 43 yards out. Robinson (who has six catches on the season for 266 yards and four TDs) caught a 63-yard scoring toss from Bunbury. The Rooster signal caller rushed five times for 115 yards and three scoring while throwing for 100 yards and a score. 

EJ Roberson had 40 yards on just four carries, while Kim Hunter had 36 on four. Tyquan Johnson had one catch for 37 yards.