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Gamecocks head to quarterfinals after downing Toombs 34-20

Jumping out to yet another quick lead as they scored on their opening possession for the sixth consecutive game, the Region 4AA champion Screven County Gamecocks of Coach Ron Duncan downed the Region 2AA runner-up Toombs County Bulldogs by a 34-20 margin on Nov. 17 at Kelly Memorial Stadium. 

With their second round state playoff win now under their belt, the 11-0 Gamecocks will now host the 12-0 and Region 8AA champion Rabun County Wildcats on Friday night. Tickets will be a GHSA-mandated $12 each.

After back-to-back games that saw the Rooster offense rattle off big play after big play to produce short drive after short drive, Toombs forced the Gamecocks put together first-half drives of 75 yards in 11 plays; 80 in eight plays; and 85 in six plays before opening the second half with a drive of 73 yards in nine plays.

The four drives alone accounted for exactly 16 minutes of the game. All six scoring drives against Washington County on Nov. 10 took 14 plays and a total of 6:03 off the clock.

Though a pair of second-half drives stalled deep, for the 11th straight game of the season the Rooster offense was virtually unstoppable. Averaging exactly 43 points per game the Red and White maintained its spot as the third-ranked scoring per game team in Class AA.

“I thought we really came out and played well,” said Duncan. “We shot ourselves in the foot with some penalties, but overall, I thought we played well.”  

Never was the balance of the Rooster rushing game as on display as against the hardnosed defense of Toombs County. From their I option, Gamecock rushing stats showed a trio of runners with better than 80 yards with quarterback Armani Bunbury at 14-88; tailback Kim Hunter at 13-86; and fullback CJ Wright at 12-81.

Hunter scored first from 19 yards out to conclude the first drive. 

Tyquan Johnson (5-74) snared a scoring toss from Bunbury (9-17-1, 114) on the first play of the second quarter, Wright scored late in the first half. Hunter scored again in the third and Wright finished things up with in the final quarter. 

Wright’s second score at the 7:51 mark of the final stanza moved the count to 34-7.

“You never really can tell prior to a game which facet of the option game the other team has emphasized during the week until the opening series,” said Duncan. “Any good defense will focus on playing each of the three phases through their base alignments and through their fundamentals. That’s where the problems come from. You have to be option-sound all of the time and if you have a breakdown it will hurt. I learned a long time ago to always be option- sound, but that is always easier said than done and Armani (Bunbury) read it well.”

The offensive line of Davien Perry, Derrick Arnett, Johnston, JaQuez Pierce, Chase Barnes along with tight ends Kashawn Robinson and Nick Garvin blocked the toughest defensive front they have faced all season quite well. On the night, there were 409 total yards for SCHS, barely below their season average of 415 per game.

On the other side of the ball, the Dirty Bird defense, save for one hiccup, held the Toombs offense, averaging nearly 30 points per game for three and a half quarters. 

Following a missed field goal on their opening possession, the visitors missed a second field goal on their ensuing possession as it hit the uprights. However, a penalty gave the Bulldogs new life and they made the most of it to draw within 14-7. There were never so close again.

“Our defense played very well,” said Duncan. “I grew to appreciate what Toombs did on offense more and more throughout the week. It was a physical challenge and our kids really stepped up. I don’t think there is any doubt who the most physical team was Friday. Our defense played hard and with great pad level.”

Toombs tried to make things interesting in the final few minutes. 

After a penalty-aided scoring drive that culminated with 5:00 left in the game, the Bulldogs recovered an onsides kick and scored again with 4:05 to go. Suddenly the score was 34-20. 

At that point, the Red and Blue recovered a second onsides kick and drove to the SCHS 11-yard line before turning the ball over on downs at the Rooster 11-yard line with barely two minutes remaining.

SCHS had 15 penalties for 115 yards and Toombs had nine for 97 yards.

Leading tacklers for the Dirty Birds were Kashawn Robinson who was in on 16; Kendrick Cox who was in on 10; and Wright who was in on eight (including 3.5 for losses).

Also there was Johnathan Roberts with six and an interception; Gary Hawkins in on six as well; and Hunter, Perry, and Garvin in on five each. EJ Roberson also caused and recovered a fumble.

The final two minutes of the game were delayed as two members of the Toombs County staff were ejected with one being escorted from the field by Screven County Sheriff Mike Kile, deputies from both Screven and Toombs County, and officers from the Sylvania Police Department.

“These things happen,” said Duncan. “It’s unfortunate, but it does. It’s an emotional game played and coached by emotional people and sometimes people make mistakes and do things they regret.”