Early in the season, a Friday night like the one Swansea had this past Friday at Brookland-Cayce seemed highly improbable.
But the Tigers overcame their 0-4 start, and won their fifth consecutive game – 24-18 against the Bearcats – to claim their first Region 5-3A title.
“It was just great to be in that position, considering where we were just four or five weeks earlier,” coach Chad Leaphart said.
The roots of Friday’s coup took hold in Week 5, when the then-winless Tigers were down by two touchdowns to winless Silver Bluff in the fourth quarter, but came back to win.
“That was, really, the turning point,” Leaphart said. “That started momentum building for us, and from there we got into region and, even though we had a bad start, we felt like everybody got a fresh start in region, we just tried to keep that momentum going.”
At Brookland-Cayce, the Tigers were able to start with a bang, as a Bearcats turnover on the opening drive gave Swansea strong field position for a touchdown after less than three minutes of play. With 100 rushing yards from Quaevon Cannon and touchdowns from Clay Lucas, Chance Walker and Craig Johnson, the Tigers built a strong lead and held on for the win despite a Brookland-Cayce rally in the second half.
“It ended up being a heck of a game, which wasn’t what we wanted, but our kids have been there before, and they knew what to do. They weren’t going to let that game slip through our fingers,” Leaphart said.
The Tigers’ defense came up with big stops to hold the Bearcats off in the fourth quarter, led by Jordan Smith and Tyquan Austin, who combined for 16 tackles.
Now that they have clinched the region title, and a playoff spot, the Tigers are hardly relaxed.
Swansea is averaging 352 yards and 23 points per game going into the region finale against Gilbert this week.
“That’s a rivalry game for us and we’re not looking past (Gilbert). We’ve come too far to let up now,” Leaphart said. “We’re going to keep going, keep the momentum going.”