Griffins Rally Snuffed at Goal Line

Rodriguez Edmonds (33) looks for the edge of the Palmetto defense. (Photo/DeAnna Robinson)

Rodriguez Edmonds (33) looks for the edge of the Palmetto defense. (Photo/DeAnna Robinson)

WINNSBORO (Nov. 26, 2016) – Half a yard. . . . One and a half feet. . . . Eighteen inches.

Rarely is the difference between victory and defeat so minute and yet so easily defined.

As the final seconds bled away Friday night at E.K. McLendon Stadium, Fairfield Central quarterback Stanley McManus took the snap from the Palmetto 25-yard line, rolled out of the pocket, scrambled and unleashed the Griffins’ last gasp.

Fans in both the East and West stands inhaled one enormous breath as Antonio Jackson leapt up near the 1-yard line, extended his arms and brought the pass safely into his chest. Jackson lurched forward and fell into the end zone with no time remaining.

But the officials ruled Jackson’s knee down just short of the goal line – half a yard shy of the win.

The two-seeded Mustangs out of Region II had survived the late rally, snuffing out Fairfield Central’s playoff run in the second round, 23-19.

“It shouldn’t have come down to that,” Griffins head coach Demetrius Davis said.

The Griffins held a precarious 19-13 lead at the break, but were shut out for the final two quarters. Still, they had chances to send Palmetto back to Williamston in the third.

On their second possession of the third, the Griffins drove from their own 19 all the way to the Palmetto 6 before coming up against a fourth-and-2 with just under 3 minutes to go. McManus pulled the ball on the option and took the reins himself, but was stuffed at the line of scrimmage.

“Fourth-and-3, we probably should have kicked the field goal down there, but we were having some snap issues, so I didn’t want to – I thought we could get those three yards,” Davis said. “And we were up, so I was hoping we could get those three yards, and we didn’t and I think that was the turning point in the game.”

Momentum did indeed pivot when the Mustangs took over on downs, but the full swing came three plays later.

Fairfield Central’s defense had Palmetto pinned on their own 6, facing a third-and-10. A stop there and the Griffins were almost assured of good field position following a punt.

But it was not to be.

Palmetto’s Antwaun Thurmond worked his way into the open down the near sidelines and Mustang quarterback Shaw Crocker uncorked a sizzler right into his hands. Thurmond never broke stride as he gave Palmetto the 20-19 lead with 2:03 left in the quarter.

Crocker and the Mustangs exploited the Griffins’ Achilles heel – a secondary depleted by injuries and patched together by underclassmen and virtual rookies. Crocker completed 50 percent of his 24 passes for 248 yards and a pair of touchdowns Friday.

“We got exposed,” Davis said. “And the thing is, we got exposed earlier in the year, but offensively we were able to make it up. Tonight, they did a great job against our running attack. They kind of made us play left-handed a little bit tonight. My hat’s off to those guys. They came in and got after our butts.”

The Griffins, in fact, rushed for 268 yards Friday, while McManus threw for another 195 for 463 yards of total offense. The Mustangs were held to just 56 yards on the ground and had 304 yards of total offense. And the Griffins amassed 19 first downs to Palmetto’s 10.

But when it counted most, the Mustangs got it done, forcing the Griffins to punt three times and turn it over on downs twice in the second half.

The Griffins opened a 7-0 lead with 7:20 to go in the first when Rodriguez Edmonds cut back against the grain from 10 yards out. But the Mustangs let it be known they had come to play when they tied things up on their next possession with a 32-yard TD pass from Crocker to Ben Perry.

The Mustangs took a 13-7 advantage with 8:05 left in the first half on Dez Frazier’s 4-yard run. Daryl Camack blocked the extra point to keep the game tight.

McManus knotted things up again with a 1-yard banger that capped an 86-yard drive with 1:50 to go in the second period. The PAT hold was bobbled and the pass attempt for 2 failed.

The Griffins took the 19-13 lead when Jerrell Suber-O’Neal darted in from 6 yards out with just 17 seconds left in the first half.

Crocker put the game on ice for the Mustangs with a 34-yard field goal with 2:16 left in the final frame.

“We were half a yard short,” Davis said. “We make that play there and, even though we played bad, everybody’s feeling good. It’s the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

The Griffins finish the season at 10-3. Palmetto (10-2) will travel to Newberry next week for the quarterfinals. The Bulldogs beat Emerald Friday, 33-7.

On the flipside of the Upper State bracket, Powdersville eliminated Chester Friday, 57-49, while Chapman knocked off Seneca 41-18. Chapman travels to Powdersville next week.

In the Lower State, all the top seeds advanced.

Bluffton edged Lake City, 41-39, and will face Brookland-Cayce, who pounded Georgetown, 42-21.

Dillon blasted Strom Thurmond, 51-19, setting up a showdown with Timberland, who ousted Gilbert, 49-29.

 

P: 7-6-7-3 – 23

FC: 7-12-0-0 – 19

 

SCORING SUMMARY

First Quarter

FC – Rodriguez Edmonds 10 run (Stanley McManus kick). 7:20.

P – Ben Perry 32 pass from Shaw Crocker (S. Crocker kick). 3:50.

Second Quarter

P – Dez Frazier 4 run (kick blocked). 8:05.

FC – S. McManus 1 run (pass failed). 1:50.

FC – Jerrell Suber-O’Neal 6 run (kick failed). 0:17.

Third Quarter

P – Antwaun Thurmond 94 pass from S. Crocker (S. Crocker kick). 2:03.

Fourth Quarter

P – S. Crocker 34 FG. 2:16.

 

TEAM STATS

P                                             FC

First Downs                        10                                           19

Rushes-Yards                     25-56                                     40-268

Passing Yards                     248                                         195

C-A-I                                      12-25-1                                 14-23-0

Fumbles-Lost                     0-0                                          0-0

Penalties-Yards                 3-20                                       6-45

 

INDIVIDUAL STATS

RUSHING: P – Shaw Crocker 12-20, A. Thurmond 1-4, T. Drayton 4-5, Payton Young 2-11, Daron Williford 2-3, Dez Frazier 4-13. FC – Stanley McManus 14-66, Jamon Jackson 2-6, Tony Ruff 11-102, Rodriguez Edmonds 11-85, Jerrell Suber-O’Neal 1-6, Ah’Quil Ross 1-3.

RECEIVING: P – Daron Williford 2-10, Payton Young 3-61, Ben Perry 1-32, A. Thurmond 4-117, Luke Shaw 1-13, Chase Stroud 1-15. FC – Jamas Goins 3-39, Jamon Jackson 1-7, J.R. Edmonds 3-44, Antonio Jackson 5-94, Gabriel Feaster 1-11, Tykedrist Gibson 1-0.

PASSING: P – Shaw Crocker 12-24, 248 yards, 2TDs, INT; Payton Young 0-1. FC – Stanley McManus 14-23, 195 yards.