Fairfield Central coach Demetrius Davis had cause for celebration Friday at E.K. McLendon Stadium.
The Griffins coach was presented with a memorable birthday gift when his unbeaten team withstood a late rally by Newberry to escape with a 28-27 win in the Class 2A Division I quarterfinals.
“I’m not going to say we were lucky, but to be honest, we were blessed,” Davis said. “We were pretty much outplayed in the second half by a good football team, and one little mistake worked in our favor.”
Fairfield Central (12-0) had a 28-7 lead midway through the third quarter, but saw the Bulldogs rally behind sophomore quarterback Yafari Werts to pull within 28-27 with 2:11 to go.
However, a bad snap on the PAT attempt doomed Newberry in the playoffs against Fairfield Central for the second year in a row. The Griffins were 28-21 winners in last season semifinal confrontation.
“It was a tough way to lose,” said Newberry coach Phil Strickland, whose team finished 9-4. “I’m so proud of the way my kids hung in and kept playing. We gave ourselves a chance. It just didn’t quite work out.”
Werts had two scoring runs in the fourth quarter, and finished with 66 yards rushing, 112 yards passing and caught one pass for 19 yards and a key first down in one of the fourth-quarter scoring drives.
Still, it was not enough.
“I told my kids coming in that this was going to be a four-quarter battle, and it sure was,” Davis said. “Newberry is a well-coached, quality football team.”
Davis watched helplessly as Newberry overcame three sacks and converted two fourth-down plays on the final scoring drive. Werts rolled left away from pressure and lofted a high pass that Jaylen Lindsay hauled in while surrounded by Griffins defenders for a 25-yard gain and a first down at the Griffins 15-yard line on a fourth-and-18 call.
Werts scored on the next play on a sweep around the right side.
“When I saw (Lindsay) make that catch, I thought for sure we were going into overtime,” Davis said. “But we were fortunate that it didn’t get that far. The bottom line is we won and we move on.”
Fairfield Central travels to face Cheraw in the semifinals next week.
The Griffins had a balanced offensive effort with 186 yards rushing, 169 through the air. Quarterback DeAndre Belton ran for a team-high 106 yards and one touchdown and was 13-for-22 passing for 169 yards and two scores.
The Griffins dominated the first half, building a 20-7 lead while outgaining the Bulldogs 279 yards to 97.
Belton had a 32-yard scoring run, and connected with Compton Walker and Shadarius Hopkins with scoring passes — the latter being a 21-yard strike on a crossing pattern 26 seconds before halftime.
FC – DeAndre Belton 32 run (run failed), 6:03
FC – Compton Walker 29 pass from Belton (Walker kick), 5:02
N – Stephen Davis 29 pass from Yafari Werts (Jose Lozano kick), 10:49
FC – Shadarius Hopkins 21 pass from Belton (Walker kick), 0:19
FC – Larry G. Bell 8 run (Javaris Cook pass from Belton), 6:44
N – Jaylen Caldwell 3 run (Lozano kick), 0:26
N – Werts 1 run (Lozano kick), 8:59
N – Werts 15 run (kick failed), 2:11
Rushing – N, Werts 22-66, Sims 8-15, Caldwell 8-30. FC, Bell 18-80, Young 5-8, Belton 18-106.
Passing – N, Werts 9-17-0-112. FC, Belton 13-22-1-169.
Receiving – N, Davis 1-29, Lindsay 5-44. FC, Squirewell 4-60, Walker 1-29, Cook 2-25, Hopkins 2-20, White 2-20.