A.C. Flora’s playoff path is set. Dreher’s, however, remains in limbo.
The Falcons got the better of their region rivals Friday night, claiming a 35-21 win at Memorial Stadium to cement their status as the Region 4-3A champions and ensure postseason home-field advantage. The Blue Devils, however, must wait until Monday to discover their playoff fate.
The school, which was barred from the postseason by the S.C. High School League last week after a postgame fight with Camden High, plans to appeal the ruling Monday. Dreher (7-3) is hopeful of a positive outcome but realizes fate is out of its hands.
“That’s all you can do,” coach Treigh Sullivan said. “There’s nothing we can do about what happened. That’s all we can do.”
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Sullivan can only hope he has better luck there than his Blue Devils did Friday night. After driving the length of the field on its opening possession, Dreher was outmanned offensively by the Falcons, who sought to make a statement heading into the postseason. Do-everything standout Denzel Johnson led the way, running for 171 yards and a touchdown, and hauling in another 60 yards and a score through the air.
“Those (guys) only come around once in a lifetime,” coach Reggie Shaw said. “He’s a special kid, he really is. He loves to compete. He’s been banged up this year, he’s played through a ton of injuries.
“But, tonight, he finally had a breakout night. Anytime we can get the ball to him, good things happen.”
A.C. Flora (9-1) might lean heavily on Johnson come next Friday, when the Falcons are expected to host either Seneca or Daniel from Region 1-3A. Shaw and Co. hoped to establish their presence over the past few weeks, determined to show the state what they’re capable of heading down the stretch.
“We wanted to come in tonight and establish that we’re a legit 3A team,” Shaw said. “There’s a lot of doubt about football in the Columbia area, besides Dutch Fork and Westwood. We wanted to establish that we are a good football team, our guys play hard and are capable of winning the big game.”
They did that against the Blue Devils. The Falcons took a 35-7 advantage into the final quarter, when Dreher tacked on a few late touchdowns. A.C. Flora punted twice on the night and moved the ball at will en route to 513 yards of offense.
“They played better than us,” Sullivan said. “They were more physical and they were the better team tonight. That’s all I can really say.”
The Falcons have been a different team since losing to then-winless Richland Northeast three weeks ago, outscoring their past two opponents 70-21. Shaw called that loss a wakeup call, one he believes will bode well now that the postseason has arrived.
“It was a good thing, looking back now,” he said. “It didn’t seem like it at the moment. But, looking back now, we’re a better team because of it.”
D – Jalique Tinsley 8 catch from Avery Armstrong (Wesley Mousseau kick) 9:27
F – Denzel Johnson 50 catch from Brendan Greene (Joseph Charlton kick) 9:13
F – Coleman Pope 11 run (Charlton kick) 3:11
F – Johnson 11 run (Charlton kick) 5:26
F – Lowndes Pope 23 catch from Greene (Charlton kick) 7:37
F – Greene 1 run (Greg Tucker kick) 0:07
D – Armstrong 1 run (Mousseau kick) 8:24
D – Armstrong 13 run (Mousseau kick) 2:24
D – Avery Armstrong 19-80, Justice Smalls 2-53, Lorenzo Ward Jr. 12-45, Williams Aquarius 1-(-2), Tyler Fleming 1-(-9). F – Denzel Johnson 9-171, Coleman Pope 12-80, Michael Joyner 8-73, Corey Riley 6-30, Clarence Watson 3-12, Brendan Greene 3-9, Carlton Andrews 1-3.
D – Avery Armstrong 16-19-0-186, Lorenzo Ward Jr 0-1-0-0. F – Brendan Greene 5-12-0-135, Carlton Andrews 0-1-1-0.
D – Jalique Tinsley 7- 93, Lorenzo Ward Jr 3-48, Chris Cooke 3-22, Tyler Fleming 1-19, Isaiah Drayton 2-4. F – Denzel Johnson 2-60, PJ Holliday 1-27, Michael Aimone 1-25, Lowndes Pope 1-23.