Irmo’s 2nd half surge squashes Westwood

Jayden Harrison (4) looks for open field. | Leroy Howard

IRMO – The first half of football action at W.C. Hawkins Stadium was a game of field position. The second was a continual question of how fast Irmo could capitalize on Westwood mistakes.

Coming out of halftime holding a 7-0 lead on the Redhawks, A.J. Brand threw three touchdown passes to lead the Yellow Jackets to a 42-0 victory, their first Region 5-4A win of the season.

That second-half surge was all about finishing, said head coach Aaron Brand, A.J.’s father, who pushed the team to play more forceful in the second half.

“It wasn’t said the way your grandmother would say it, but we’re happy with the response,” Coach Brand said. “The guys just responded to the halftime chatter and came out and we lit it up in the second half, man. It’s a credit to the guys, it’s a credit to the coaching staff that we have, just figuring out what we had to do at halftime to make it better.”

The younger Brand, a sophomore, finished with 263 yards on 13-for-19 passing. He also had 63 rushing yards and a TD on 15 carries.

The only score of the first half came after Irmo’s Isaiah McClary blocked a Matthew Mueller punt and put the Yellow Jackets (5-4, 1-3) at the Westwood 14-yard line.

All A.J. Brand had to do was run around the left end and go the distance to the goal line to put the Yellow Jackets up 7-0 on the Redhawks (2-7, 1-3) at the 4:13 mark of the second.

Taking the halftime talk to heart, the Yellow Jackets wasted no time in opening the second half with a bang.

Three plays into the action, Brand let a long pass fly. Alexander ran under it along the right sideline and broke free of the Westwood defender to complete the 64-yard TD strike.

“It’s something that we’ve been missing on for the last three weeks,” Coach Brand said, noting his team’s three straight region losses. “We played good against Ridge View, but the other two games we just weren’t real good.”

Forty-five seconds later, the Yellow Jackets were up 21-0 when Xavier Montgomery pounced on a free football immediately after his teammates blocked a second Westwood punt.

Three more scores came quickly in the fourth quarter.

Brand found Telvin Smith for a 24-yard touchdown, then hooked up with Terin Bowman for a 44-yarder that made it 35-0 with 7:53 left.

Backup quarterback Mason Burdette cashed in when he tossed a 6-yard TD pass to Alexander, who had two touchdown receptions and 89 yards on six catches on the night.

The game is a contrast of last year’s matchup, in which the Yellow Jackets were up 34-14 on the Redhawks early in the third quarter, but Westwood rallied to beat them 42-37.

“The parity is pretty even in this region,” Coach Brand said. “You’ve got to play to the end all the time and that’s why we wanted to not end up in the second half last year, up 20 points with three minutes left in the third and not able to finish.”

Westwood, which lost the offensive services of Shrine Bowl selection Noah Jennings when he went down with a right-arm injury earlier in the season, had its winning chances closed out quickly with the two scores to open the second half.

“Having a young team, sometimes that stuff can snowball on you and that’s what happened in the second half,” first year head coach Robert O’Connell said. “Everything pretty much didn’t go well from the get-go.”

One takeaway from Friday’s game is that the Redhawks had another solid evening with Jayden Harrison in the backfield. Harrison had 169 yards on 26 carries.

“He’s done a good job all year,” O’Connell said of Harrison, who had the game-winning score at Lugoff-Elgin and scored the team’s only two TDs in a loss to A.C. Flora. “He’s a guy we played at receiver some, and we ended up moving him to running back. Jayden’s done a good job.”

This week’s region action has solidified A.C. Flora’s and Ridge View’s hold on the top two slots. The Blazers (8-1, 4-0) travel to Memorial Stadium to take on the Falcons (9-0, 4-0) for the region championship Friday.

Meanwhile Westwood, Irmo, Lugoff-Elgin, and Richland Northeast are in a four-way tie, with each team being 1-3 in the region.

Westwood winds up the season with a home game against Richland Northeast. The Cavaliers (2-7, 1-3) went blow-for-blow in a tough loss at Ridge View (8-1, 4-0) last week.

Irmo plays host to Lugoff-Elgin (4-4, 1-3). The Demons fell hard 54-7 against A.C. Flora last week.

Even though the season has been tough for the Redhawks, a win over RNE, and a Lugoff-Elgin win over Irmo could put the Redhawks and Demons the two playoff spots behind A.C. Flora and Ridge View. 

“The only thing now is that we need to have some help,” O’Connell said. “We’ll just do our part and see what happens.”

Westwood – 0-0-0-0 — 0 

Irmo  – 0-7-14-21 — 42 

Second Quarter 

I – A.J. Brand 14 run (Jose Villanueva kick) 4:13  

Third Quarter 

I – Caleb Alexander 64 pass from Brand (Villanueva kick) 10:32  

I –  Xavier Montgomery blocked punt recovery (Villanueva kick) 9:46

Fourth Quarter 

I –Telvin Smith 24 pass from Brand (Villanueva kick) 10:22  

I – Terin Bownan 44 pass from Brand (Villanueva kick) 7:53

I – Alexander 6 pass from Mason Burdette (Villanueva kick) 2:44 

                                                WHS              Irmo 

First Downs                          8                      15 

Rushes-yards                      35-153          29-196 

Passing yards                      21                   263 

Att-Com-Int                        12-3-0          19-13-0 

Fumbles-lost                       3-2                 1-0 

Penalties-yards                  4-36               6-55 

Punts-avg                            6-27.3           3-40.7 

RUSHING: W – Jayden Harrison 26-169, Dylon O’Neal 5-(-17), Carrington Carter 1-3, K’Shon Harrison 1-(-4), Team 1-2. I – A.J. Brand 15-63, Anton Jones 10-97, Quantrell Mitchell 3-40, Team 1-(-4). 

PASSING: W – Dylon O’Neal 3-12-0. I – A.J. Brand 12-17-0, Mason Burdette 1-2-0. 

RECEIVING: W – Dominic Young 2-18, Sanah Furgess 1-3. I – Caleb Alexander 5-89, Anton Jones 3-61, Telvin Smith 3-61, Terin Bowman 1-44.  

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