Griffins Down Dogs, Werts and All

Tony Ruff (29) grinds out a run against Newberry Friday. (Photo/DeAnna Robinson)

Tony Ruff (29) grinds out a run against Newberry Friday. (Photo/DeAnna Robinson)

WINNSBORO – One more play. At the end of Friday night’s clash of Region III 2A titans, the Fairfield Central Griffins made one more play than did the Newberry Bulldogs.

Trailing 29-21, the Dogs had just marched 72 yards, and with 1:45 left in the game, Amir Abrams punched in the score from 3 yards out to cut the deficit to 29-27. With the game on the line, Newberry put their fate into the hands of their most lethal weapon – Shrine Bowl quarterback Yafari Werts.

Needing the 2-point conversion to at least secure overtime, Werts took the snap, raced to the far sideline and turned the corner. But the Griffin defense closed the gap, and Werts was hammered just inches from the goal line. The packed house at E.K. McLendon Stadium erupted in jubilation and a collective sigh of relief as the Griffins held on to the 29-27 win.

“Man, was it electric in here tonight or what?” Griffin head coach Demetrius Davis said after the win. “I’m so proud of these cats, I don’t know what to say.”

With the game knotted at 21 and less than 10 minutes to play, the Griffin defense forced a rare Newberry punt. Zchivago Herndon fielded the punt at the Fairfield 15 and blasted a return to the Newberry 45. A pair of carries by Jerrell Suber-O’Neal and one by quarterback Stanley McManus moved the Griffins to the Newberry 33. From there, Rodrick Woodard took the end-around and gashed his way to the Bulldog 3, setting Suber-O’Neal up for the go-ahead touchdown.

Lining up for an Austin Gregory PAT, the Griffins shifted out of the kick formation and into the 2-point look. McManus faked the pass, tucked the ball to his chest and bowled in for the conversion. The gambit gave the Griffins the 29-21 edge that would prove decisive.

“On that last touchdown there, I knew they were going to score again,” Davis said. “We went for it on that last one and (McManus) did a great job of faking the option and dove in. It was a great play.”

The long anticipated showdown between the region leaders lived up to its billing. Newberry drew first blood in the see-saw battle when Werts, on third-and-3, broke a 60-yard touchdown run on the Dogs’ third snap of the game. Ethan Day’s point after attempt went wide, but Newberry had nosed out front, 6-0, with 8:07 left in the first.

The Griffins answered with a 12-play drive from their own 26 that was capped by Tony Ruff’s 1-yard run. Gregory’s kick met the same fate as Day’s and the game was tied at 6 with 2:35 left in the opening frame.

Newberry re-took the lead in a hurry. Once more facing a third down, this time with 8 to go, Werts launched his first pass of the evening – a 63-yard bomb to Zyearrious Towns. Day’s kick was clean, and the Dogs were out front 13-6.

The Griffin defense held Werts to just three completions on the night, with the rocket to Towns causing the only real damage.

The defense also kept the Bulldogs entirely off the scoreboard in the second quarter, while the offense overcame a pair of fumbles to edge out front before the break.

Still trailing 13-6 and with a little more than 6 minutes left in the half, Fairfield Central’s Tykedrist Gibson recovered a botched snap on a Newberry punt attempt at the Bulldog 34. McManus and Ruff bashed their way to the Newberry 6, converting a fourth-and-2 along the way. The Bulldogs pushed Fairfield back somewhat to the 10, but from there, on third-and-goal, McManus hit Qua’terrious Thompson in the back of the end zone for the score. The two hooked up again on the 2-point conversion, giving the Griffins a 14-13 lead at the break.

Newberry all but destroyed the entire third quarter with a 15-play, 72-yard drive that Abrams mopped up with a 1-yard run. Werts rushed in the 2-point trick for a 21-14 Bulldog lead, leaving the Griffins with just 2:43 to play with in the third.

In a game of such intensity, it is often difficult to pinpoint precisely the definitive turning point of the game. The ensuing kickoff, however, may just have been that turning point.

With a 7-point advantage, the Bulldogs attempted the high-sideline variation of the onside kick. The Griffins failed to cover, and Newberry fell on the ball near midfield. But a penalty against the Dogs for pushing a Griffins receiver clear of the ball while it was still in the air gave possession back to Fairfield Central at the Newberry 48.

Four plays later it was third-and-inches at the Bulldog 9. All eyes were on McManus and Ruff, either one of whom could be counted on to grind out a first down. What no one expected, least of all the Newberry defense, was McManus’s 9-yard pass to Gibson in the far corner of the end zone. Gregory tacked on the PAT, tying the game at 21 with 48 second left in the third.

“There wasn’t anybody between here and Newberry there (covering Gibson),” Davis said. “Ryan Sharpe (offensive coordinator) made that call. It was a great call.”

The Bulldogs got one last chance to steal the win, lining up after a Griffin punt at their own 20 with 8 ticks left on the clock. Werts’ long-shot, Hail Mary down the middle of the field was batted away by the Griffin secondary, however, to seal the deal.

The Griffins are now 3-0 in the region and 6-1 overall, while Newberry falls to 2-1 in region play, 5-2 overall. Fairfield Central hosts Pelion next week for homecoming. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.

 

NH: 13-0-8-6 – 27

FC: 6-8-7-8 – 29

 

Scoring

First Quarter

N – Yafari Werts 60 run (kick failed). 8:07.

FC – Tony Ruff 1 run (kick failed). 2:35.

N – Zyearrious Towns 63 pass from Yafari Werts (Ethan Day kick). 0:57.

Second Quarter

FC – Qua’terrious Thompson 10 pass from Stanley McManus (Qua’terrious Thompson 3 pass from Stanley McManus). 0:36.

Third Quarter

N – Amir Abrams 1 run (Yafari Werts 3 run). 2:43.

FC – Tykedrist Gibson 9 pass from Stanley McManus (Austin Gregory kick). 0:48.

Fourth Quarter

FC – Jerrell Suber-O’Neal 3 run (Stanley McManus 3 run). 7:33.

N – Amir Abrams 3 run (run failed). 1:45

 

Team Stats

N                                             FC

First Downs                        13                                           10

Rushes/Yards                    44-243                                   34-161

Passing Yards                     82                                           68

C-A-I                                   3-9-0                                      6-6-0

Fumbles/Lost                    1-1                                          2-2

Penalties/Yards                 4-50                                       3-11

 

Individual Stats

RUSHING: N – Yafari Werts 18-131, Amir Abrams 18-75, Chris Wadsworth 7-31, Derrick Scurry 1-6. FC – Jerrell Suber-O’Neal 8-45, Stanley McManus 14-65, Chad Sampson 2-0, Tony Ruff 8-19, Josh Bell 1-2, Rodrick Woodard 1-30.

PASSING: N – Yafari Werts 3-9, 82 yards, TD. FC – Stanley McManus 6-6, 68 yards, 2 TD.

RECEIVING: N – Zyearrious Towns 2-76, Zicorious Riley 1-6. FC – Qua’Terrious Thompson 3-12, Larentay Mozie 1-19, Roderick Sparks 1-28, Tykedrist Gibson 1-9.