Griffins Survive Late Bulldog Rally

 

Chanti Jones (34) fights off a block and takes aim at Newberry’s Yafari Werts. (Photo/DeAnna Robinson)

WINNSBORO – It was a long climb back into the hunt for Newberry Friday night in third round Class 2A playoff action at E.K. McLendon Stadium, but the Bulldogs were determined to take the Fairfield Central Griffins to the wire. Down 28-7 midway through the third quarter, the Dogs shutout the potent Griffin offense in the final frame and scratched their way back to within a single score. With 2:11 remaining, the Dogs appeared to have completed their improbable rally, as Newberry quarterback Yafari Werts scored on a 16-yard run, virtually erasing the Griffins’ advantage. The only step remaining for the Dogs was for sure-footed kicker Jose Lozano to boot in the extra point to tie the game.

It looked as if last week’s prediction by Griffins head coach Demetrius Davis, that the game would be a repeat of the 2012 nail-biter, won by the Griffins in overtime 28-21, had come to pass.

But for Newberry, the improbable dissolved into the unthinkable when Werts, holding on the PAT, could not find the handle on an errant snap that squibbed across the turf. Werts scooped up the tumbling pigskin and scrambled, but was unable to rally a receiver for a potential 2-point bailout before being smothered by the Griffin defense, ending the Bulldog rally one point shy of forcing overtime, 28-27.

“That’s a good football team over there,” Davis said. “Those guys never flinched. I told these guys all week, be prepared for a knock-down, drag-out for four quarters. In two years, we’ve only beat these guys by 8 points. Tonight was just a mishap on the snap. But you’ve got to do the little things. The snap, it seems easy, but it’s always important. Who ever thought that snap was going to roll back on the ground? If we go into overtime right there, we lose, because they had all the momentum.”

Newberry had somehow salvaged momentum from despair, rocked back on their heels early as the Griffins put up 13 points in 61 seconds in the first quarter. Griffins quarterback Deandre Belton faked the handoff to Byron Sampson, completely deceiving the Bulldog defense, and dashed in from 32 yards out with 6:03 to go. The 2-point attempt failed, but the Griffins had drawn first blood at 6-0. Newberry fumbled the ball away on their following possession, which was recovered by Dustin Padgett at the Bulldog 30. On Fairfield’s first play following the turnover, Belton faked the handoff on the end-around and rolled back to pass. He was in the grasp of the Newberry defender, falling backwards as he hurled the ball from one leg to Compton Walker, who was standing all alone in the corner of the end zone. Walker added the kick to put Fairfield up 13-0 with 5:02 left in the first.

The Dogs cut the lead to 13-7 when Werts hit Stephen Davis with a 29-yard touchdown pass with 10:49 to go in the second quarter. The Griffins upped the ante to 20-7 before the half when Belton found Shadarius Hopkins with a 21-yard scoring strike.

The Griffins scored on their second possession of the third quarter when Larry G. Bell hammered into the end zone from 7 yards out. Belton then hit Javaris Cook with the 2-point pass to go up 28-7 with 6:44 on the clock. That PAT that would ultimately prove to be the difference in the game, as Newberry’s offense began to grind down the Griffin defense, and the Bulldog defense found the shut-off valve for Fairfield’s offense.

“They stuck to their guns,” Davis said. “They made some big plays on third down and they made some big plays on fourth down and those penalties we had didn’t help us, not at all. We’ve just got to clean that stuff up.”

The most crucial penalties came on Newberry’s final drive. With the Dogs facing a third-and-9 from their own 33, the Griffin defense delivered a timely sack of Werts back to the Newberry 24. But a penalty gave the Dogs new life and kept the drive going. Werts was sacked again back on the Newberry 38, but another Fairfield penalty kept the chains moving. Werts was shown a close-up view of the turf once more as the Dogs lined up on a third-and-10 at the Fairfield 32. Werts was thrown back to the 40, and with no flags on the field this time, the Dogs were staring down the barrel of a fourth-and-18 with under 3 minutes to play, down 28-21.

Newberry had no choice but to gamble. Werts was flushed from the pocket, scrambling for his life, but remarkably found Jaylen Lindsay down on the Griffin 16 for the first down. Werts then finished off the nearly miraculous drive with his 16-yard scoring run.

“We got outplayed in the second half,” Davis said. “When they got that fourth down and 18 I said, ‘Oh man, we’re going to overtime,’ because that kind of stuff only happens when you’re going to lose.”

The Griffins will travel to Cheraw next Friday for a battle with the Braves for the Upper State title. The Griffins beat Cheraw 41-6 back on Sept. 27 in Winnsboro, but Davis said he expects a different game this time around.

“At this point, it’s going to be this kind of game next week,” Davis said. “It’s the Upper State championship. This will be the fourth time we’ve played these guys in less than a calendar year, so they’re going to have a great plan for us. They’re going to be ready to play. They’ve got some guys, they’ve got some good athletes and they’re hot. They’ve won seven in a row. They’re at home, so they’re going to be feeling pretty good.”

 

NHS – 0-7-7-13 – 27

FCHS – 13-8-7-0 – 28

First Quarter

FC – Deandre Belton 32 run. Run failed. (6:03)

FC – Compton Walker 30 pass from D. Belton. C. Walker kick. (5:02)

Second Quarter

N – Stephen Davis 29 pass from Yafari Werts. Jose Lozano kick. (10:49)

FC – Shadarius Hopkins 21 pass from D. Belton. C. Walker kick. (0:19)

Third Quarter

FC – Larry G. Bell 7 run. Javaris cook 3 pass from D. Belton. (6:44)

N – Jaylen Caldwell 3 run. J. Lozano kick. (0:26)

Fourth Quarter

N – Y. Werts 1 run. J. Lozano kick. (8:59)

N – Y. Werts 16 run. Kick failed. (2:11)

Team Stats

                                                                NHS                                       FCHS

First Downs                                        14                                           15

Rushes/Yards                                    39-100                                   42-177

Passing Yards                                     106                                         167

C-A-I                                                      9-17-0                                   15-25-1

Fumbles/Lost                                    1-1                                          1-0

Penalties/Yards                                                7-40                                       11-101

Third Down Conv.                            2-10                                       3-13

Fourth Down Conv.                         1-1                                          0-1

Individual Stats

RUSHING: NHS – Jaylen Caldwell 9-25, Yafari Werts 22-52, Omar Sims 7-21, Chris Wadsworth 1-2. FCHS – Larry G. Bell 16-81, Joseph Young 7-5, Deandre Belton 16-96, Compton Walker 1-3, Shadarius Hopkins 1-(-1), Javaris Cook 1-(-7).

RECEIVING: NHS – Stephen Davis 1-29, Jaylen Lindsay 5-33, Trey Gary 2-25, Zy Downs 1-9, Yarfari Werts 1-19. FCHS – Kewaun Squirewell 4-60, Tavaris Cook 2-18, Compton Walker 1-30, Shadarius Hopkins 2-19, Tyren White 1-7, Javaris Cook 5-34.

PASSING: NHS – Yafari Werts 9-17, 87 yards, TD; Khalil Sheppard 1-2, 19 yards. FCHS – Deandre Belton 15-25, 167 yards, INT, 2TD.