Byrnes’ defense, a unit that has grown over the course of the season, ignited a second-half run as the Rebels cruised to a 63-21 win against visiting Lexington on Friday in the second round of the 4A Division I playoffs.
Byrnes (12-1) will play host to Dutch Fork on Friday. Lexington finishes 10-3.
But the game finished on a sour note.
An altercation almost broke out after the game at midfield in lieu of handshakes between opposing coaches and players, as police escorted the Wildcats off the field.
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Three personal foul penalties by the Wildcats and a late Byrnes touchdown drive in the final seconds prompted the fracas. The Rebels, up 56-21, opted to pass for a touchdown with 27 seconds remaining and second-string quarterback Micah Young in the game. On the Wildcats’ 12, the Rebels called timeout and then Young hit Jaylan Foster for a 12-yard scoring pass.
Byrnes coach Bobby Bentley said he felt a need to protect his players after the late hits.
“The players said to me, ‘Coach, let’s call timeout and score.’ I felt like you do what you feel like you have to do to protect the guys,” Bentley said. “I felt like we got our guys out there handling themselves the right way, the way the game is to be played.
“Their coaches say things that probably shouldn’t have been said, and our coaches took exception to that,” Bentley said. “We’ve got to worry about our football team, and that’s what we do. I think with the backups in, when they started getting first downs, they really got some energy and brought some life to the team.”
After the game, Lexington coach Josh Stepp left the field without talking to reporters.
‘I just want to get out,” he said while leaving the field.
Byrnes quarterback Shuler Bentley completed 20 of 26 passes for 313 yards and six touchdowns. Shaedon Meadors caught eight passes for 148 yards and four touchdowns.
“They see one another well,” Bobby Bentley said. “Outside of a couple of plays, we were on fire.”
Lexington running back Slade Carroll had 28 carries for 148 yards for the Wildcats. Quarterback Will Hunter was 18-of-35 and threw three interceptions, one returned 55 yards for a touchdown by Lyrics Klugh in the third quarter, which broke the game open.
Lexington cut the lead to 20-14 late in the second quarter on Hunter’s 70-yard pass for Keelo Norris, but the Rebels responded on Bentley’s third scoring pass to Meadors with a minute before halftime and the Wildcats never got closer.
“It seems like every day our defense is getting better,” Bentley said. “The defense is gelling with the staff and it seems like every day they’re getting better.”