Warhorses corralled at Lower State playoff

  • Barnwell High quarterback Pete Elmore, #1, gets caught from behind by Panther defenders.

For the Barnwell High varsity football team a reverse of fortunes coupled with missed opportunities dictated the outcome of Friday’s class AA Lower State Finals game.

In the contest, the Warhorses couldn’t have asked for a better start. Two consecutive turnovers by Batesburg-Leesville High in the first six minutes of play led to two touchdowns and a 14-0 lead.

From there, however, the Warhorses were plagued by mistakes that allowed the Panthers to claw back for a 20-17 victory.

With the win, the Batesburg-Leesville Panthers advance to the 2A state finals where they will play Abbeville High.

Batesburg-Leesville coach Perry Woolbright said his players hung tough against a good Barnwell team.

“Things started out bad for us tonight with the turnovers, but we never panicked,” Woolbright said. “Barnwell is a tough, physical team. Playing them during the regular season really helped because our players grew a lot from their first meeting with them.”

The loss ends Barnwell High’s season at 12-2 overall and 3-1 in the playoffs.

Barnwell High coach Dwayne Garrick said it wasn’t the ending they wanted.

“Tough loss tonight,” Garrick said. “We played hard, but came up a little short. After we had success on those first couple of drives, we never were able get anything going with our ground game.”

For the Warhorses, the pieces seemed to be in place for the Warhorses at the start. On the second play of the game, Earl Bostic recovered the ball on a backward lateral at the Panthers’ 31-yard line.

The Warhorses scored five plays later on a two-yard run by Keyshawn Jenkins. Nathan Toole added the kick for a 7-0 lead with 9:41 left in the first quarter.

Moments later, the Warhorses were back in business thanks to an interception by Kamron Myrick at the Panthers’ 48-yard line. The interception set up a one-yard run by Brandon Harvey.

After committing turnovers on their first two possessions, the Panthers settled down.

For the Panthers, a gifted quarterback named Bishop Cannon got the troops going.

Cannon, who played the role of a wildcat style signal caller, caused all sorts of problems for the Warhorse defenders.

Cannon finished with 168 all-purpose yards and a touchdown. He did most of his damage late in the second quarter on a lengthy 12-play 98-yard scoring drive. Cannon, who converted four third downs, capped the march with a one-yard run to cut the lead to 14-12 at half-time.

Also helping to fuel the comeback was Jalik Oakman, who had 129 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

Not being able to cash in scoring opportunities ultimately came back to bite the Warhorses.

Leading 14-6 early in the second quarter, the Warhorses had good field position deep in Panthers’ territory thanks to a 58-yard kickoff return by Brandon Harvey. The team advanced the ball to the Panthers’ 16-yard line before the drive stalled on fourth down.

The Warhorses tried to salvage the drive with a field goal by Nathan Toole, but the kick was partially blocked. The Warhorses seemingly got new life on the play after a penalty for roughing the kicker gave them another play at the Panthers’ two-yard line. The team, however, was held out of the endzone on the next play when the running back was stopped for no gain.

That trend continued for the Warhorses in the second half. After recovering a muffed punt at the Panthers’ 12-yard line, the Warhorses again failed to get the ball in the end zone and had to settle for a 28-yard field goal by Toole.

Ahead 17-12, they quickly lost the momentum gained by the field goal when Jalik Oakman of the Panthers returned the ensuing kickoff to the Warhorses’ two-yard line. The Panthers scored one play later. The team then added the two-point conversion for a 20-17 lead.

Trailing 20-17 with 8:28 left to play, the Warhorses tried to answer. Kamron Myrick made a nice adjustment to haul in a deep pass from Pete Elmore along the sideline. The reception gave the Warhorses first and 10 at the Panthers’ 21-yard line. The drive, however, went backward from there. A first down run netted a minus two yards. That was followed by a sack, an incomplete pass, another sack and fourth down to end the drive.

After a defensive stop, the Warhorses had one more chance with the ball at their 28-yard line and 2:19 left to play.

On a first down run by Pete Elmore and a 10-yard completion from Elmore to Keyshawn Jenkins, the team quickly moved the ball close to midfield. Elmore’s next four passes, however, fell incomplete to end the game.

“Making the plays was the difference in the game. We made them early, but they made them late. Not being able to get the ball in the end zone when we had it in close a couple of times really hurt our chances,” Garrick said. “That’s a good football team. They have been good all year and their quarterback is one heck of an athlete. He made some great plays for them tonight,” Garrick said.

Garrick said although the team fell short of a championship, it doesn’t take away from a great season.

“I’m very proud of this group of players. We made huge strides this season. Not many teams have won 12 games this season,” Garrick said