#1 Warhorses rally for win

The Batesburg-Leesville Panthers played spoiler to Barnwell High’s title hopes last year with a 20-17 victory in the Lower State Finals at W.W.Carter Field.

The teams met in a rematch Friday night in Batesburg-Leesville and, for at least the first half, it looked like it would be another repeat performance by the Panthers.

Trailing 27-6 in the second quarter, the Warhorses found a way to circle the wagons. Sparked by a swarming defense and a punishing ground attack, the Warhorses stampeded back for a thrilling 44-41 win.

For Barnwell High, it would be the team’s finest victory of the season as it improves to 7-0 overall.

The Warhorses rallied from first half deficits of 21-0 and 27-6 to maintain their No. 1 ranking in class 2A.

Barnwell High coach Dwayne Garrick said the team did a good job of overcoming early adversity.

“All and all this was a great region win. I thought our kids did a great job of hanging in there when things weren’t going our way,” Garrick said. “I thought we showed a lot of fight. We got down early, but the score right before the first half ended was huge for our confidence. It gave us something to build on going into the second half.”

The score Garrick was referring to was a seven-play, 63-yard march late in the first half that quarterback Pete Elmore capped with a four-yard touchdown pass to DJ Peeples. The score narrowed the lead to 34-20 at halftime.

Overall it was a good night for Elmore and the rest of the offense. He passed for 89 yards and rushed for 19 more in a game where the team compiled 418 total yards, including 331 by ground.

Senior Mikal Lee and junior Brandon Harvey shouldered the bulk of the rushing attack. The duo accounted for 305 yards rushing and four touchdowns.

Lee did the most damage on the ground with 183 yards on 23 attempts and two touchdowns. Lee’s 52-yard sprint to pay dirt with 9:02 left in the fourth quarter gave the team its first lead of the game at 37-34.

Harvey, who scored the team’s first touchdown on a four-yard run, finished with 128 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

“Offensively, we moved the ball really well. I credit the offensive line for doing a great job of pass protecting and opening holes,” Garrick said.

Meanwhile, a Warhorse defense that seemed confused at times in the first half, regained their composure after surrendering 34 points in the first two quarters.

It was Earnest Smith, Cole Kearse, Deshuan Watson, Dontavious Bennett and Griffin Corley who got the troops back on track.

The group led a charge that held an explosive Panthers’ offense to one touchdown in the second half.

Big plays fueled the comeback as Bennett’s 13-yard fumble returned midway in the third quarter made it a one possession game at 34-27.

Smith and Kearse highlighted the unit with a season-high 10 tackles apiece. Watson registered eight tackles and a forced fumble. Players with seven tackles included Griffin Corley, Dallyon Creech, Ryan Harper, Jackson Carter, Dylan Walker and Tyreek Foust.

“They have a pretty talented quarterback who can make plays. Defensively, we weren’t that disciplined at the start. We made some halftime adjustments and played much better in the second half,” Garrick said.