Griffins Advance to Upper State

Joseph Young (21) blasts through a gaping hole in the Strom Thurmond line. (Photo/Joe Seibles)

Fairfield Central-34, Strom Thurmond-7

WINNSBORO – For the third time in three weeks, and for the second straight week in Class 2A/Division 1 state playoff combat, the Fairfield Central Griffins Friday night were pitted against a potent offense piloted by a dead-eye gunslinger. And for the third time in three weeks, the Griffin defense took the wind away from their opponents, sweeping Strom Thurmond out of the second round, 34-7.

The Rebels came into E.K. McLendon Stadium riding a wave of confidence, having destroyed Pendleton in round one, 49-14. Strom Thurmond quarterback Tyree Stidem had thrown for 1,646 yards on the season, with 13 TDs, with an additional 537 yards rushing and nine trips into the end zone.

But Stidem and the Strom Thurmond Rebels met much the same fate as did Corey Stone and the Mid-Carolina Rebels in week 10 of the regular season and round one of the playoffs. While Stidem threw for 108 yards against the Griffin secondary, most of those yards came late in the contest, and he never tasted the end zone. The Rebel ground game, meanwhile, crashed and broke against the bulwark of the Fairfield Central defense. Stidhem was thrown for a net loss of 7 yards, while the run game as a whole clawed out but 14 total yards on 21 carries.

“We’re pretty good on defense,” Griffin head coach Demetrius Davis said. “Our defensive staff does a good job preparing our guys each week, and we’ve got some good players over there. Our defensive line is good, our linebackers are good and our secondary is pretty good, too.”

The Fairfield Central offense wasn’t too shabby, either, particularly on the ground. Joseph Young again provided much of the heavy lifting, pulverizing the Rebel defense for 167 yards and four touchdowns on 31 carries. Quarterback Stanley McManus was good for 74 yards in limited passing action, connecting on 6 of 9 tries with one hiccup, an interception midway through the second quarter.

The Griffins jumped out front early on a 37-yard touchdown run by Josh Bell. The run capped the game’s opening possession, a nearly 4-minute drive that devoured 83 yards of turf.

After holding Strom Thurmond to a three-and-out, the Griffins took the ensuing punt at their own 39 and in four plays were in the paint once again, this time on Young’s 24-yard run. With Isias Leon making good on both point-after kicks, just like that it was 14-0 Griffins with 6:06 left in the opening quarter.

“You want home field advantage to be an advantage,” Davis said. “Any time you can get out and jump on a team like that at home then you’ve got a chance to win the game.”

The Rebels had opportunities to join the party, on the McManus interception with 4:45 left in the first half and on a rare Young fumble at the Fairfield 35 with a minute to go. But the Griffin defense held off the threat both times. The first threat ended with a 37-yard field goal attempt by Strom Thurmond’s Cole Fell, and the second on a 36-yard try. Both went wide.

“Defense,” Davis said, describing in one word how a team gets away with back-to-back turnovers in a playoff game. “If you give up a score there, you’re only up 14-0 at that time, then it’s only a one-score game.”

Special teams also made a significant contribution Friday night. After forcing another Rebel three-and-out on the opening possession of the second half, Shadarius Hopkins fielded the Strom Thurmond punt at his own 24, broke up the far sideline and gashed his way to the Rebel 34 before being brought down.

Young blasted his way to the Rebel 23 and McManus barreled to the 16. Young then banged and wheeled into the end zone for the 21-0 lead with 8:50 left in the third.

Young added his third TD with 10:30 left in the game, a 13-yard hammer that pounded home a 64-yard drive that began with 1:45 left in the third. The point-after kick was blocked, but the Griffins commanded the game with a 27-0 advantage.

The Rebels cracked the goose egg with 7:41 left in the game on a 1-yard run by Deandre Ryan. The drive, which began on the Strom Thurmond 35 with 10:23 to play, saw some of Stidem’s best work of the night, as he lit up the Griffin secondary.

The Rebel rally came much too late, however, and Young stuck the fork in them with a 12-yard run at the 4:02 mark.

In all, the Griffins carried the ball 50 times for 321 yards against the Rebel defense.

“We were able to run the ball,” Davis said. “And one thing we always say, if you can run the ball this time of year and play good defense, then you’ve got a good chance to move on.”

The Griffins will indeed move on, hosting Newberry next week for the Upper State championship.

Newberry, a 3-seed, came from behind Friday night to upset 2-seeded Woodruff on the road. The Bulldogs were a preseason favorite to win Region III, but the Griffins toppled those expectations back on Oct. 10 when they traveled to Newberry and humbled the Dogs 33-8.

In the Lower State bracket, meanwhile, the Wildcats of Dillon appear to be in complete control. Dillon thrashed Waccamaw Friday night, 56-0, and will face Loris for the Lower State title. Loris beat Ridgeland-Hardeeville Friday, 14-6.

 

STHS: 0-0-0-7 – 7

FCHS: 14-0-7-13 – 34

 

Scoring

First Quarter

FC – Josh Bell 37 run (Isias Leon kick). 8:15.

FC – Joseph Young 24 run (I. Leon kick). 6:06

Third Quarter

FC – J. Young 16 run (I. Leon kick). 8:50.

Fourth Quarter

FC – J. Young 13 run (kick blocked). 10:30.

ST – Deandre Ryan 1 run (Cole Fell kick). 7:41.

FC – J. Young 12 run (I. Leon kick). 4:02.

 

Team Stats

                                                ST                                           FC

First Downs                        8                                              19

Rushes/Yards                    21-14                                     50-321

Passing Yards                     108                                         74

C-A-I                                      14-22-0                                 6-9-1

Fumbles/Lost                    1-0                                          2-1

Penalties/Yards                5-25                                       7-65

 

Individual Stats

RUSHING: ST – Chad Gilchrist 8-16, Tyree Stidem 7-(-7), Jaquan Edwards 3-0, Deandre Ryan 3-5. FC – Stanley McManus 8-42, Joseph Young 31-167, Josh Bell 2-38, Antonio Jackson 1-9, Chad Sampson 2-27, Jerrell Suber-O’Neal 2-6, Shadarius Hopkins 1-4, Byron Sampson 3-28.

RECEIVING: ST – Chad Gilchrist 3-1, Tyree Nick 5-21, Garrett Gibson 2-22, Deandre Ryan 4-55, Jaquez Harris 1-9. FC – Nick Rikard 2-33, Byron Sampson 1-3, Shadarius Hopkins 2-29, Montego Johnson 1-9.

PASSING: ST – Tyree Stidem 14-22, 108 yards. FC – Stanley McManus 6-9, 74 yards, INT.

 

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