Griffins Thwart Revenge-Minded Braves, Advance to Upper State

Griffin quarterback DeAndre Belton on the keeper.

Damien Bell (9) makes the cutback.

Fairfield Central head coach Demetrius Davis said he was expecting to see a different football team get off the bus from Cheraw than the team that took a lick and laid down back on Sept. 21, when the Griffins thumped the Braves 43-8. And that’s what he got.

These Braves were seasoned, hungry and relentless, and had the Griffins down 3-0 in the second quarter. These Braves found a way to put the brakes on Fairfield’s juggernaut offense, play keep-away and slow the tempo down. But the Griffins found their legs before the half and stretched out a win in the second chapter, 27-10, to advance to the upper state championship game next week.

“It’s the first time we’ve trailed since Union (Sept. 14),” Davis said. “I think to be able to play in the playoffs, you’ve got to be able to face a little adversity and still have the confidence to win. At the end of the day, you have to believe you can win and our kids believe they can win.”

After dueling to a scoreless draw in the first quarter, the Braves got on top with a 32-yard field goal by James Davis with 7:32 left in the second. The drive, which began with 28 seconds to go in the first quarter on the Cheraw 36, could have ended much differently. Having chewed up the Griffin defense to drive the ball to the Fairfield 10, the Braves lined up to go for a fourth-and-1. An illegal procedure penalty on the delayed snap cost the Braves 5 yards, however, and forced the kick.

The Griffins responded with a clock-consuming drive of their own, starting at their own 27. Riding largely on the back of Damien Bell, the Griffins marched to the Cheraw 30 before the Braves forced a crucial third-and-10. Then Fairfield quarterback DeAndre Belton hit Kewaun Squirewell with a 27-yard pass, all the way down to the Cheraw 3, setting up Bell’s 1-yard touchdown run moments later.

The Griffins had an opportunity to add to their 6-3 lead late in the half, but Belton coughed the ball up at the end of a 19-yard run at the Fairfield 45.

“(Belton) had a big fumble right there at the half, and I hate to see that,” Davis said. “He’s such a good player, I want him to be free at all times and I don’t want him to have stuff in his mind, so I went to him and told him to move on and just play. He was able to shake it off. I’m so happy he’s on my team and I get to coach him again next year.”

Stymied on a fourth-and-goal from the Cheraw 3 on their opening possession of the second half, the Griffin’s relied on their defense to hold the Braves deep. Compton Walker fielded the punt at the Braves’ 41 and returned it to the 17, setting up a three-play drive that Belton finished off with a 6-yard run. Walker’s kick put the Griffins up 13-3 with 5:37 left in the third quarter.

But the Braves were not going to collapse in round three of the playoffs the way they had in week five of the regular season, and an unusual turn of events put them right back in the ball game.

Facing a fourth-and-7 from their own 48, the Braves lined up to punt the ball away. The punt was blocked by Mitchell Crosby and rolled deep into Cheraw territory. Following a wild scramble, the officials ruled that a Griffin had, momentarily, recovered the ball, but had fumbled it back to Cheraw, giving the Braves new life on their own 17. It was the opening they needed, and the Braves capitalized, driving 83 yards in 17 plays to close the gap to 13-10 on a 2-yard run by Justin Chapman with 9:26 left in the game.

The Griffins responded once more, with Daniel Maple taking the ensuing kick at his own 35 and returning it to the Fairfield 47. Belton and the Bells drove the ball to the Cheraw 22 before the Braves forced a fourth-and-2 and Davis rolled the dice. The Braves bit on the long count, jumped off sides and gave the Griffins a first down at the 17. Still, the Cheraw defense hung tough, putting the Griffins in another fourth down situation, this time 5 yards shy at the 12. Belton rolled out in the bootleg and hit Larry G. Bell with a touchdown strike to put Fairfield up 20-10 with 4:45 remaining. Bell would hammer in the final nail one minute later with a 20-yard run against a gassed Cheraw defense.

“That’s a good football team there,” Davis said of Cheraw. “We were fortunate tonight. I’m glad our kids were prepared for a tough football game, because we were able to respond. I told them it’s tough to beat a team twice. They’ve got all the film they need just from watching the last game. We probably could have done a few things differently here and there, but at the end of the day, we won.”

The Griffins will host Newberry next week for the opportunity to represent the upper state in the title game Nov. 30. Newberry beat Central 21-14 Friday night.

 

FC 0-6-7-14  27

CH 0-3-0-7  10

Second Quarter

CH – James Davis 32 FG. (7:26)

FC – Damien Bell 1 run. Kick failed. (2:32)

Third Quarter

FC – DeAndre Belton 6 run. Compton Walker kick. (5:37)

Fourth Quarter

CH – Justin Chapman 2 run. Davis kick. (9:26)

FC – Larry G. Bell 12 pass from D. Belton. C. Walker kick. (4:45)

FC – L.G. Bell 20 run. Josh Bell kick. (3:46)

Team Stats

FC                           CH

First Downs                        12                           13

Rushes/Yards                    40-188                   37-140

Passing Yards                     90                           69

C-A-INT                            6-7-0                      9-23-0

Penalties/Yards               6-55                       4-26

Fumbles/Lost                    2-2                          1-0

Individual Stats

RUSHING: FC—Damien Bell 23-92. DeAndre Belton 10-60. Larry G. Bell 7-36. CH—Justin Chapman 21-71. Deion Sanders 1-3. Xavier Taylor 7-24. John Cooks 2-4. Randall Watson 1-12. Robert Pitts 5-26.

RECEIVING: FC—Damien Bell 1-(-5). Kewaun Squirewell 2-80. Kevin Workman 1-3. Larry G. Bell 1-12. Javaris Cook 1-0. CH—Justin Chapman 5-36. Winston Martin 2-10. John Cooks 2-25.

PASSING: FC—DeAndre Belton 6-7-0INT-1TD-90 yards. CH—Robert Pitts 9-23-0INT-0TD.

RECORDS: FC – 5-0/10-2 CH – 4-1/7-5