State Championship Bound: Griffins Use OT to Muzzle Dogs

Fairfield Central running back Damien Bell prepares to apply the stiff-arm to the Newberry defender.

Antonio Lewis (8) and the Griffin defense work to bring down Newberry’s Tyon Williams.

‘Instant classic’ may be a somewhat overused cliché, particularly among sports writers, but Friday night that’s exactly what the last two teams standing in the Upper State half of the Class 2A/Division 1 bracket delivered to the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd at E.K. McClendon Stadium in Winnsboro.

The hometown Griffins of Fairfield Central scored late in regulation on a 4-yard run by Damien Bell to tie the Newberry Bulldogs at 21-all and force overtime. On second-and-goal in the spare frame, Bell scored from 1-yard out on the Griffins’ first possession of the Kansas City Shootout, and the Fairfield defense held solid to seal the win, 28-21.

As the fans swarmed the field, reluctant to leave the battleground, second-year Griffin head coach and Fairfield County native Demetrius Summers was ecstatic.

“This is what I imagined,” Davis said, sweeping his hands across the sea of reveling fans, “to have a full house here supporting their Griffins. To give Fairfield County something to be proud of. That’s why I came back here.”

Friday night’s showdown was a brutal knockabout, a war of attrition, with the oversized Bulldogs clamping down on the Griffin running game early. Although the Griffins, on the first snap of the opening possession, set themselves up with a first-and-goal at the Newberry 9, the 75-yard pass from DeAndre Belton to Kewaun Squirewell went for naught as the Newberry defense put up a tremendous goal-line stand.

With the run shut down, the Griffins took to the air, and on their second possession, Belton hit Squirewell again, this time with a 28-yard touchdown strike.

“They’re so big, we couldn’t block them,” Davis said. “The only way we could score was to throw the ball, and that’s not our forte. We like to run the football. But we were able to make some plays.”

The Griffins did manage to accumulate 143 yards on the ground, largely behind Belton, who found his legs in the second half. Belton rushed for 84 yards in the second chapter of Friday night’s contest, running his game total to 94.

“Big-time players play in big-time games,” Davis said of his quarterback. “He was able to make some big-time plays, and we needed it.”

But it was Squirewell who had the big night, racking up 199 yards in receptions from Belton, who threw for 260 on the night. The Belton-Squirewell combo put the Griffins up 14-0 early in the second quarter, when the two juniors connected for a 63-yard score.

“If he’s not the player of the week, I don’t know who is,” Davis said of Squirewell. “He made some big-time plays when we needed them. My hat goes off to him.”

But the Dogs hadn’t made it this far in the playoffs by lying down, and on their next possession they used a short field to go 65 yards in three plays. Newberry’s Tyon Williams put the Bulldogs back in the hunt with a 32-yard touchdown run with 10:47 left in the half. Newberry tied the game on their next possession, which began on their own 20 after a missed 30-yard field goal attempt by Compton Walker. Tysheen Nance capped the drive with a 1-yard run on second-and-goal with 2:49 remaining in the second.

But as the game wore on, the Dogs wore down, with several key players – quarterback Khalil Sheppard, and running backs Williams and Eric Gallman – getting banged up and sidelined. Backup quarterback Jared Harmon came on in relief and racked up 57 yards on 13 carries for Newberry, but he too went down late in the game.

“We knew they were big and physical,” Davis said, “but we thought by playing fast and doing what we do, we could wear them down. That was our game plan, and there toward the end we were able to wear them down.”

Newberry went up 21-14 early in the third quarter on a 7-yard run by Harmon, but Bell’s late score put the teams right back where they had started nearly 48 minutes earlier.

The win catapults the Griffins into the State Championship game Nov. 30 at Benedict College against Dillon. Kickoff for the title game is 5:30 p.m.

 

FC – 7-7-0-7-7  28

NH – 0-14-0-7-0  21

First Quarter

FC—Kewaun Squirewell 28 pass from DeAndre Belton. Compton Walker kick. (5:53)

Second Quarter

FC—K. Squirewell 63 pass from D. Belton. C. Walker kick. (11:50)

NH—Tyon Williams 32 run. Jose Lozano kick. (10:47)

NH—Tysheen Nance 1 run. J. Lozano kick. (2:49)

Fourth Quarter

NH—Jared Harmon 7 run. J. Lozano kick. (11:54)

FC—D. Bell 4 run. C. Walker kick. (3:59)

OT

FC—Damien Bell 1 run. C. Walker kick.

Team Stats

FC                           NH

First Downs        14                           13

Rushes/Yards    39-143                   42-159

Passing Yards     260                         26

Fumbles/Lost    1-0                          3-1

Penalties/Yards   7-60                       5-45

Individual Stats

RUSHING: FC—Damien Bell 13-43. DeAndre Belton 20-94. Larry G. Bell 3-5. Joseph Young 2-0. Tyren White 1-6. NH—Eric Gallman 3-7. Tyon Williams 12-86. Khalil Sheppard 6-(-6). Omar Sims 1-5. Tysheen Nance 7-10. Jared Harmon 13-57.

RECEIVING: FC—Kewaun Squirewell 6-199. Damien Bell 5-58. Keith Workman 1-(-1). Daniel Maple 1-5. NH—Tovaris Cureton 2-26.

PASSING: FC—DeAndre Belton 13-25 260 yards. 2 TDs. 1 INT. NH—Khalil Sheppard 1-5 10 yards. 1 INT. Jared Harmon 1-2 16 yards. Chad Davis 0-4 0 yards.

Records: FC—5-0/11-2. NH—6-2/10-4