Blue Devils' Cinderella season ends

The the clock struck twelve on the Williston-Elko High's Cinderella football season Friday in Orangeburg. For the three quarters and a half at Oliver C. Dawson Stadium on South Carolina State University campus, the Blue Devils were on the verge of completing its fairy tale season with a 6-0 lead over Scott's Branch High.However, moments before the preverbial midnight Williston-Elko High lost its glass slipper when Scott's Branch High scored 14 unanswered points in the last 5:43 of the game to take the class 1A division II championship. Scott's Branch tailback Quentin Singleton's 34-yard run with 1:11 left broke a 6-6 tie and gave the Eagles a 14-6 lead which they never relinquished.Williston-Elko High's late fourth quarter drive attempt to tie the game ended with an interception.For the Blue Devils it was a game of missed opportunities. Three times in the second half, Williston-Elko High penetrated the Scott's Branch High end of the field only to come away without any points.A crucial stop came with 3:56 left in the fourth quarter. Tied at 6-6, the Blue Devils drove to the in Eagles 30-yard line behind the hard running of Dexter Staley. The promising six-play drive, however, ended with a fumble on fourth down and one.On the play, the ball slipped out of the Blue Devil ball carrier's hand before he reached the line of scrimmage. A Scott's Branch defender recovered the ball and raced 14 yards before being tackled at the 48-yard line.Williston-Elko High coach Dwayne Garrick said the team played hard, but wasn't able to generate any productive plays late in the contest. "Scott's Branch is a good football team and today they made the plays when the game was on the line," Garrick said.

"Our team played hard, but the bottom line in this business is winning. Right now, it's tough. It has been a long season and as a team you don't just want to make it to the finals, you want to win it."
It was hardly another day at the office for a sizzling Blue Devil offense which averaged 34 points through the first three playoff games.Except for a three-yard touchdown run by Dexter Staley late in the first quarter, Williston-Elko pretty much sputtered on its offense the entire game. The Blue Devils offense committed three turnovers and finished with a season low 128 yards. Blue Devil 1,000 yard-rusher and North/South All-Star selectee Josh Epps was held to nine yards on five carries.

"Our kids played hard. However, this game is about executing and today, we didn't do a very good job of moving the football," Garrick said. "We missed blocks and we had opportunities to makes plays we came up short."

Blue Devil players said it was tough offensively to make plays."It was just a rough day for the offense. It's very hard to explain what happen out there. We just couldn't get into any kind of flow," Epps said.

"It seemed like we were always a step behind," sophomore quarterback Tamyn Garrick said. "We didn't play well offensively today. It was hard for us out there because they blitzed a lot and were hard to pick up at times."

Dexter Staley was the lone bright spot for the Blue Devils offense as he finished with 123 yards on 18 carries."We came out and played hard, but it was the little mistakes that cost this game for us today," Dexter Staley said.Defensively, Williston-Elko High defenders held their own against a bigger Scott's Branch High offense which averaged more than 300-pounds on the offensive line. A Blue Devils unit paced by Andrea Williams, John Staley, Charles Melton, Quantel Mack, Jackson Cooper, Wilbur Greene and Marcus Bates held the top ranked rushing offense in class 1A scoreless through the first three quarters. Three times in the first half, the Blue Devils stopped the Eagles on fourth down conversion attempts.After being shutout for three and a half quarters, Scott's Branch 2,000-yard rusher Quentin Singleton took over the game. Singleton completed an eight-play, 48-yard drive with a three-yard run.On the next possession, Singleton barrelled through a host of Blue Devils before bursting free for a 34-yard touchdown. Singleton finished with 115 yards."I thought we had him on the the run, but we let up and he got away," senior linebacker John Staley said. "Defensively, I thought they worn us down at the end," Garrick said.

"Scott's Branch is a very big and physical team. We hung in there with them pretty much the entire game. Our kids showed great effort and they never gave up."

For Williston-Elko High, Friday's state title defeat was the culmination of a 12-game winning season. It was the team's best finish since the 1999 season when they reached the finals against Timmonsville.Williston-Elko High entered the season unranked. However, the team gained respect throughout the league. The Blue Devils' transformation from last year to this season was like night and day as a previously inconsistent team morphed into the state highest scoring offense. The Blue Devils knocked off top seeds schools like Christ Church and Ware Shoals in the playoffs.

"We had some success this year. Hopefully we can keep it going next season. I'd like to thank my players and assistant coaches for a great season. I'd also like to thank the administration for their great support along with the cheerleaders, parents, fans and the community."