In 2012, early mistakes cost Dutch Fork the Class 4A Division 1 championship game. With a second chance on Saturday, coach Tom Knotts’ Silver Foxes made an early statement instead as they faced Sumter.
Forcing takeaways on the first two Sumter drives, the Silver Foxes (12-3) asserted their dominance on both sides of the ball, and rolled to a 54-14 victory at Williams-Brice Stadium.
“We just had the greatest confidence. We went into practice like, ‘hey, this is our game for the taking. We’ve put in the body of work, now let’s just finish it.’ And to come out and do this, it’s the icing on the cake,” said junior running back Matt Colburn, who finished with 210 yards and four touchdowns on 35 carries.
It was the first championship for Dutch Fork.
“You know, I’ve only been here four years, so it’s been a long four years for me. It validates a lot of the hard work we’ve been doing,” Knotts said.
“We were a little worried about jumping ahead of Sumter. We didn’t want to get a big lead and then see them fight back and get all the momentum,” Knotts said.
But Sumter’s young squad never gained a foothold, and coach Reggie Kennedy said, “Just so many bad things happened back to back. It’s kind of hard to bounce back from that, especially when you’re playing a really good, quality football team. You can’t make those types of mistakes.”
Dutch Fork’s punt after the opening drive gave Sumter possession at its 37.
But what looked like a setback worked in the Silver Foxes’ favor. On the first play from scrimmage, James Barnes completed a pass to Kyjon Tyler behind the line of scrimmage, but Tyler fumbled and Dominique Scott recovered for the Silver Foxes.
Dutch Fork’s second-chance drive began at the Sumter 29. Colburn ticked off 14 yards on first down, and quarterback Derek Olenchuk completed the short drive with a 15-yard completion to Daniel Jurgensen inside the left corner.
When the Gamecocks got the ball again, Sumter tried the pitch again, and again, the Silver Foxes forced a fumble.
This time, Dutch Fork covered the 19 yards in two plays, with Colburn fumbling the ball into the end zone, and Austin Ruger falling on it for the touchdown and a 14-0 lead after 3 minutes of play.
Two big plays on the next possessions kept Sumter alive, and neither of them came from the offense.
On Sumter’s third drive, Dutch Fork drove the Gamecocks back eight yards, forcing a 20-yard Sumter punt that gave the Silver Foxes another 30-yard field.
Five plays later, a 10-yard Dutch Fork penalty negated Colburn’s 3-yard scoring run. On third-and-goal from the 13, Olenchuk dropped back, looking to hit the end zone.
His pass was tipped, and Sumter’s Demarcus Harris picked it off and rumbled 76 yards to put the Gamecocks in the game with six minutes left in the first quarter.
On the Silver Foxes’ next possession, a long run by Walter Roberson put Dutch Fork in striking distance once more, at the Sumter 13.
This time, on fourth-and-goal, the Silver Foxes settled for a 21-yard Tyler Bass field goal.
On the ensuing kickoff, Xzavion Burson scooped up the ball at the Sumter 18, broke through a wall of Dutch Fork tacklers and motored past the kicker into open field and the end zone.
Despite being held to -7 yards and five plays on offense, the Gamecocks trailed by three points after the first quarter.
But Sumter’s offense never scored, and it’s defense could not hold off the Silver Foxes.
At the start of the second quarter, Austin Connor’s 38-yard reception set up Colburn’s 3-yard scoring run.
Then three consecutive drives ended in Bass field goals — of 25, 38 and 19 yards.
“We kicked four field goals. I don’t think I’ve ever done that in my life,” Knotts said. “We just wanted to get some points on the board, and Tyler Bass really gave us a boost with his field-goal kicking.”
Dutch Fork closed the half with a 33-14 lead, having outgained the Gamecocks 400 yards to 20.
Olenchuk was 13-of-20 with 197 yards in the half; Colburn had 23 carries for 138 yards.
Olenchuk, a senior, said, “This is my dream, this what I’ve always lived for, and to make history at Dutch Fork and to set the legacy with this group of seniors is truly an honor.”
A legacy was set for Sumter as well.
“It just upped the bar. We’ve got higher standards now,” said Kennedy, whose Gamecocks finish 9-6. “When I first got there, my goal was just to have a winning season, but that’s not the deal anymore. Our goal right now, our standard is to get back here next year.”
D—Daniel Jurgensen15 pass from Derek Olenchuk (Tyler Bass kick)
D—Austin Ruger fumbled recovered in endzone (Bass kick)
S—Demarcus Harris 76 interception return (Vince Watkins kick)
D—Tyler Bass 21 field goal
S—Xzavion Burson 82 kickoff return (Watkins kick)
D—Matt Colburn 3 run (bass kick)
D—Bass 25 field goal
D—Bass 38 field goal
D—Bass 19 field goal
D—Colburn 4 run (Bass kick)
D—Colburn 11 run (Bass kick)
D—Colburn 5 run (Bass kick)