Grounded! BHHS Hawks title hopes end with Lower State game
In the second half of Friday's Lower State Finals in Summerton, the defending champs and top-ranked Hawks of Blackville-Hildalooked like the class of 1A football.
Unfortunately, though for Blackville-Hilda, the damage inflicted during the two previous quarters by Scott's Branch High was irreparable.
During the first half, the Eagles of Scott's Branch High jumped on Blackville-Hilda, soaring to a 18-point lead before holding off of furious second half rally by the Hawks for a 24-22 victory.
Trailing 24-8 at halftime, the Hawks stormed back with 14 unanswered points in the second half to cut the lead to 24-22 with 4:29 left to play.
The Hawks then had an opportunity to win the game on its last drive with 2:05 left to play.
However, after getting an initial first down, the drive stalled after four successive incomplete passes.
With the loss, Blackville-Hilda ends the season at 12-1 overall and 2-1 in the playoffs.
Blackville-Hilda head coach David Berry said despite early mistakes, the team still had its chances at the end of the contest.
"We got to play two halves of football, not just one half," Berry said.
"It was a big, physical game. They jumped on us pretty good in the first half. However, our kids didn't lay down and quit, they fought back with pride. Tonight, we missed two two-point conversions and on the last drive, we had opportunities to make plays and we didn't execute."
Blackville-Hilda High players said the team dug too deep a hole for themselves at the start of the game.
"I'm very disappointed right now because I felt we should have won this game," Larry Johnson said. "We spotted them 16 points in the first quarter. That's pretty much the story of the game."
"I thought we fought hard, but couldn't get back because of the mistakes we made in the first half," Okoye Roundtree said.
"It's very hard losing a game like this because our goal was to win another title."
With the win, the 10-3 Scott's Branch Eagles advance to the class 1A division II finals to play Williston-Elko High.
The Eagles are coached by former Allendale-Fairfax High coach Leonard Johnson.
Johnson said his team and Blackville-Hilda put on a great show.
"Our kids should be really proud of themselves. They beat a very good and well-coached Blackville-Hilda team tonight," Johnson said. "This game was great. Those who missed it don't know what they were missing."
The game started with the Eagles getting on the scoreboard first. After fumbling on its opening first, the Eagles offense redeemed itself with a 59-yard scoring march.
The seven-play drive ended when Kadeem Baxter squirted through an opening in the Hawks defense for a six-yard touchdown.
Quintin Singleton ran for the two-point conversion for a 8-0 lead with 5:13 left in the first half.
On the ensuing kickoff, things continued in favor of the Eagles when they recovered an onside kick at the Hawks 46-yard line. It took the Eagles just five plays to convert the turnover into points. Quarterback Adrian Cord went play action and found Jerrell Adams for a 33-yard touchdown pass. The Eagles added the two-point conversion.
Down 16-0, the Hawks clawed back on the ensuing drive. Behind the running of Joe Thomas and Jamell Dukes, the Hawks drove 71 yards for score.
Dukes capped the lengthy 12-play drive with a four-yard touchdown run. Quarterback Chris Kearse completed a pass to Freddie Glover for the two-point conversion to cut the lead at 16-8.
Scott's Branch, however, came back with a scoring drive on its next drive. Cord completed an 11-yard pass to Adams for a touchdown. The Eagles added the two-point conversion to extend its lead to 24-8 at halftime.
"Defensively in the first half, we didn't play well. We were out of position at times and didn't make plays. Other times, we just didn't take well," Berry said.
After a lackluster first-half defensive performance, the Hawks closed the running lanes on an Eagle offense which had 139 yards on the ground in the first half.
A Hawk unit led by Roundtree, Thomas Daniels, Brenton Holiday, Quentin Johnson and Dustin Beasley, held the Eagles to just 22 yards and one first down.
The first break of the second half for the Hawks came on a safety. On the play, the snap sailed on the punter's head. With a host of Hawks swarming, the punter dived on the ball in the end zone.
The Hawks offense had to rely on its younger ball carriers after senior tailback Joe Thomas was sidelined with an ankle injury for majority of the second half.
After a great fourth down stand by the defense, the Hawks offense got on the scoreboard on a four-yard run by Ronnie Thomas on the last play of the third quarter. The extra points failed.
Trailing 24-16, Blackville-Hilda's continued on the comeback trail in the fourth quarter. On a second down run, Dukes ripped through the Eagles defense for 11 yards. Ronnie Thomas then followed with runs of eight and 12 yards for another first down.
Moments later, Ronnie Thomas went off-tackle for a 21-yard scoring run. On the following play, the Hawks tried to tie the game with a two-point conversion, but the try failed.
"If we stuck the ball in for the two-points, who is to say what the outcome might have been," Berry said.
"It was a very physical game. Joe Thomas went down with an injury, so the younger players had to step it up for the team. This one loss dosen't take away from a great season we had at Blackville-Hilda. We lost 22 seniors last year and no one expected us to be in this position."
For the game, Dukes led Blackville-Hilda High with 91 yards. Ronnie Thomas had 54 yards and Joe Thomas added 47 yards.