Swansea will have an entire offseason to think about a disastrous seven-minute stretch during the third quarter in the opening round of the Class 3A playoffs.
Marlboro County scored 28 unanswered points in those crucial seven minutes to allow the Bulldogs to run away with a 42-14 victory Friday night at Doug Bennett Field. Marlboro County advances to play at Hanahan next week in second-round action while the Tigers will be turning in the pads on Monday.
It was a bitter pill to swallow after the two teams entered the half deadlocked at 14.
“We battled them strong for a half and felt good about things,” Swansea coach Chad Leaphart said. “They scored that early (third quarter) touchdown and that is when things snowballed out of control.”
The Bulldogs, a No. 3 seed despite finishing in a three-way tie for first in Region 6-3A, opened the second half with a two-yard scoring run by London Johnson.
That was the beginning of the end for the Tigers, even though the Bulldogs offense ran three plays the rest of the quarter.
It started on the next Swansea possession when Malik Miles stepped in front of a pass in the flat and raced 45 yards for a touchdown to increase the lead to 14 points. After forcing a three-and-out on the next Tigers series, Raheem Ward returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown to give Marlboro County two scores in 1:22. The Bulldogs ended the blitz when Ward turned a short pass from Johnson into a 35-yard touchdown.
“They have lived off the big plays and we, for the most part, had avoided that,” Leaphart said. “They have some playmakers, and they busted loose on us and it was hard to recover at that point in the game. Those couple of big plays did us in.”
Marlboro County coach Dean Boyd said the big plays got momentum on the Bulldogs’ sideline. After the Miles interception return, a hit in front of the Marlboro County bench gave them the extra motivation they were looking to create. Fred David delivered a bone-crunching block to free Ward on the long punt return that had the Bulldogs buzzing.
“We have to have that momentum and emotion,” Boyd said. “This is a different place than our place. It’s wide open. We have fireworks and music and all this kind of stuff and we didn’t have that here. We had to get something to get us rolling and that bug hit on that punt return juiced our kids up and got them going. That’s what we had to have.”
Boyd also credited a defensive change at the half for limiting Swansea (7-4) in the second half. The Tigers managed one first down and 15 yards on the first four possessions of the third quarter.
“We made a change. We were in a 4-2 in the first half and went to a 3-5 and felt we could stop them out of that. Those three upfront guys balled out and gave their quarterback fits.”
While the Marlboro County (9-2) defense was giving Swansea fits, Johnson was a difference-maker on offense.
He threw for three touchdowns and added another rushing. He accounted for 209 yards of offense, with 198 coming through the air. He was 17-for-24 and threw to five receivers in the Bulldogs’ five wide receiver sets.
“We’re going to put it in his hands,” Boyd said. “Every now and then, he’ll make mistakes, but nine times out of 10 he’s going to do something to help us out. He keeps his eyes down field and makes plays all the time.”
Leaphart thought Johnson’s play and the talented group of receivers were the difference outside of the third quarter.
“They have five kids they can line up at wide receiver that can go,” he said. “It’s hard to contain them, and the quarterback does a great job of controlling things.”
Chance Walker scored on a 14-yard run and Travis Loadholt added a 1-yard scoring run for Swansea. The Tigers were limited to 109 yards on the ground.
MC – Tylik Johnson 20 pass from London Johnson (Hunter Stubbs kick) 7:25
S – Chance Walker 14 run (Arthur Myers kick) 5:42
MC – Fred David 7 pass from L. Johnson (Stubbs kick) 11:09
S – Travis Loadholt 1 run (Myers kick) 1:01
MC – L. Johnson 2 run (Stubb kick) 8:10
MC – Malik Miles 45 Interception return (Stubbs kick) 4:39
MC – Raheem Ward 80 punt return ( Stubbs kick) 3:17
MC – Ward 35 pass from L. Johnson (Stubbs kick) 1:11