Second-Quarter Blast Lifts Griffins to Region Title

Josh Bell (4) breaks out of the wedge, returning the free kick for a TD. (Photo/DeAnna Robinson)

FCHS-37, Keenan-12

WINNSBORO – The Fairfield Central Griffins may not have been razor sharp for four complete quarters, but an explosive second quarter in which special teams once again paid dividends lifted the Griffins over the Keenan Raiders 37-12. The win locks up the third consecutive 2A Region III crown for the Griffins (5-0/8-1) and sends Keenan (4-2/6-3) into the middle of the region pack with Newberry and Mid-Carolina.

“Winning the region is not one of our goals,” Griffins head coach Demetrius Davis said. “We’re happy. We’re grateful. Don’t think we’re not grateful, but at the same time we’ve got some work to do.”

The Griffins capitalized on Keenan miscues, including a botched snap on a Raiders’ fourth-and-10 deep in Keenan territory. Troy Brown, Keenan’s punter, scrambled for the loose ball but it was Fairfield Central’s Daryl Cammack who came up with the greased pig at the Keenan 3. That set up Stanley McManus for the quarterback keeper on the Griffins’ first play from scrimmage, breaking the ice on what had to that point been a defensive struggle. Isias Leon was a perfect five of five on PAT kicks, and his first boot of the night put Fairfield Central up 7-0 with 4:56 left in the first quarter.

The Keenan defense kept the Griffin attack largely in check, holding Fairfield Central to 149 yards on the ground and just 86 through the air.

“We really didn’t have great looks (rushing),” Davis said. “Two weeks in a row guys have overloaded us. The difference between Keenan and some of them other jokers is they matched up pretty good against us, so we couldn’t beat them one-on-one like we’ve beat some of these other guys.”

But as good as Keenan’s defense was, Fairfield Central’s was better. The Griffins mashed the Keenan ground game as the Raiders struggled to grind out a meager 28 net yards. Keenan quarterback D’Marco Zeigler was prolific, chucking 132 passing yards – one a 32-yard touchdown to Kendric Gathers with 56 seconds left in the first half. But the Griffin defense made Zeigler pay heavily, pinning the junior QB to the turf four times for a total loss of 36 yards and picking off a pair of passes to kill Keenan drives.

“Defensively I think we did a great job of blitzing the quarterback and picking our spots to blitz,” Davis said. “They had a problem picking up our blitz.”

While the Raiders’ offense struggled to gain traction, their defense kept the contest close through the first 12 minutes. But a roll of the dice by Keenan on fourth-and-9 at the Griffin 23 with 10:13 to go in the second came up craps for the Raiders. The Griffins took over on downs and Joseph Young, just 6 yards shy of a cool 100 on the night, quickly hammered out a path to the Fairfield 39. Up against a third-and-8 from the Fairfield 41, Stanley McManus fired a shot to Young, who raced 59 yards for the score and the 14-0 lead with 8:37 on the clock.

Young added another TD with 3:43 to go before the half, this one a bruising 5-yard run for a 21-0 lead. Young had helped set the drive in motion after the Griffins took a Keenan punt at their own 39 with 5:31 on the clock. Young broke out of the pack on the first snap, lumbering to the Keenan 21. McManus carried it to the 17, then hit Shadarius Hopkins with a rope at the Keenan 5.

The wheels came off completely for the Raiders on their next possession. Staring down the barrel of a fourth-and-25 at their own 15, the Raiders again bungled the snap on the punt. With the Griffin defense bearing down on him, Brown rolled out of the back of the end zone with the ball giving the Griffins 2 free points.

It went from bad to worse for Keenan on the ensuing free kick.

Josh Bell, who just last week broke an 85-yard kick return for 6 against Pelion, took the free kick from Brown at the Fairfield 35, raced straight into the center of the wedge and squirted out the other side like a watermelon seed, blowing past the Keenan coverage and into the end zone for a 30-0 lead.

In just 10 seconds, the Griffins had scored 9 points and the Raiders were all but cooked.

“We take pride in our special teams and we’re going to take points whenever we can get them,” Davis said. “Coach (Scotty) Dean does a great job with that. Every day we do something with special teams. We feel like special teams can win us a lot of football games.”

Bell’s return was the sixth Griffins return for a touchdown of either a kick or a punt this season and it was Bell’s third. Hopkins also has three – two kickoffs and one punt – for Fairfield Central.

Keenan broke the shutout just before the break on Zeigler’s pass to Gathers, and got their final points of the game with 4:51 left in the final frame when Bryan Johnson scooped up a Markell Whitaker fumble at the Keenan 29 and found nothing but green grass between him and the end zone. The Raiders were 0-2 on 2-point conversion attempts.

The Griffins capped off a 4-minute, 70-yard drive earlier in the fourth quarter when McManus found Hopkins in the end zone from 6 yards out at the 7:45 mark.

Fairfield Central wraps up region play next week against Mid-Carolina for homecoming.

 

K: 0-6-0-6 – 12

FC: 7-23-0-7 – 37

 

Scoring

First Quarter

FC – Stanley McManus 3 run (Isias Leon kick). 4:56

Second Quarter

FC – Joseph Young 59 pass from S. McManus (I. Leon kick). 8:37.

FC – J. Young 5 run (I. Leon kick). 3:43.

FC – Team safety. 1:59.

FC – Josh Bell 65 kick return (I. Leon kick). 1:49.

K – Kendric Gathers 32 pass from D’Marco Zeigler (pass failed). 0:56.

Fourth Quarter

FC – Shadarius Hopkins 6 pass from S. McManus (I. Leon kick). 7:45.

K – Bryan Johnson 71 fumble return (pass failed). 4:51.

 

Team Stats

                                                K                                             FC

First Downs                        10                                           9

Rushes/Yards                    30-28                                     38-149

Passing Yards                     132                                         86

C-A-INT                             11-27-2                                 4-12-0

Fumbles/Lost                    3-2                                          1-1

Penalties/Yards                10-67                                     9-85

 

Individual Stats

RUSHING: K – D’Marco Zeigler 4-(-21), Tiski Gray 5-13, Tyrieck Davis-Williams 12-35, Kendric Gathers 3-5, Tyreke Ashford 3-(-4). FC – Joseph Young 16-94, Shadarius Hopkins 2-9, Stanley McManus 11-2, Josh Bell 1-0, Jerrell Suber-O’Neal 5-12, Markell Whitaker 2-10, Byron Sampson 1-22.

RECEIVING: K – Jalon Wilson 4-37, Kendric Gathers 4-67, Khi Baker 1-13, Tyreke Ashford 1-3, Chauncy Haney 1-12. FC – Joseph Young 1-59, Shadarius Hopkins 2-18, Nick Rikard 1-9.

PASSING: K – D’Marco Zeigler 11-27, 132 yards, 2 INT, TD. FC – Stanley McManus 4-12, 86 yards, 2 TD.

RECORDS: Keenan 4-2/6-3; Fairfield Central 5-0/8-1.

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