A spirited 3A playoff game Friday night might have had a different outcome had Swansea set the tone with an early score, but Marlboro County emerged with a 19-8 victory.
The Tigers (7-5) caught a break on the opening kickoff at Doug Bennett Field when Jacob Berry recovered a Bulldogs fumble to set the Tigers up at the Marlboro County 35. Swansea drove to the Bulldogs’ 16, but Yenum Pena’s 36-yard field goal attempt didn’t clear the crossbar.
“I think it definitely would have been a different game,” Swansea coach Chad Leaphart said. “It would have gotten us some positive momentum going. If we scored there, it would have made a huge difference in the ballgame. That comes back to get you.”
Three London Johnson touchdown passes proved the difference, as the Bulldogs (7-5) advance to the third round to play Myrtle Beach, a 46-34 winner over Hanahan.
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“It was great to get a win for us,” Bulldogs coach Dean Boyd said. “They’re region champions; they’ve got a good football team. It was a hard-nosed football game.”
The Bulldogs drove down inside the Swansea 10 on the next possession, but Johnson fumbled on the run and Tigers defender Tyquan Austin recovered it in the end zone for a touchback.
Both teams battled to a scoreless draw for most of the half.
Johnson put Marlboro County on the board first with a 40-yard touchdown pass to Alonte Littles with four minutes remaining in the half.
The Bulldogs then capitalized on a high snap to Swansea punter Tyler Hoffman with two minutes to go. Hoffman fell on the loose ball at the Tigers’ 15-yard line, and, three plays later, Johnson found Tabari Hines in the right corner of the end zone with 45 seconds to go.
The Bulldogs added to their lead when Johnson found Hines again for a 51-yard score early in the third quarter to make it 19-0.
Clay Lucas’ 22-yard scoring strike to Craig Johnson put Swansea on the scoreboard with 1:03 to play. The Tigers recovered an onside kick, but Lucas threw an interception to put the game on ice.
“We struggled to get something going on offense tonight,” Leaphart said. “Their D-line was difficult to block, and they made some difficult defensive plays and made some key stops on us to keep us at arm’s reach.”
The emotions were running strong as each team had a double-personal foul – assessed for 30 yards – in the game.
“That’s the way it is at this point,” Leaphart said. “It’s do or die, and games get very emotional.”
M – Alonte Littles 40 pass from London Johnson (kick failed) 4:09
M – Tabari Hines 15 pass from Johnson (pass failed) :45
M – Hines 51 pass from Johnson (Nick Rogers kick) 9:48
S –Craig Johnson 22 pass from Clay Lucas (Johnson pass from Lucas) 1:03
Rushing – Marlboro County, McClean 4-12, Johnson 10-76, Smith 5-34, Hines 1-(-9), Townsend 4-3. Swansea, Walker 6-17, Lucas 10-(-2), Cannon 11-36, Austin 4-7, Johnson 1-12.
Passing – Marlboro County, Johnson 19-10-0. Swansea, Lucas 31-13-3.
Receiving – Marlboro County, Littles 3-45, Prince 2-16, Hines 4-81, Williams 1-11. Swansea, Walker 2-23, Johnson 5-62, Veren 4-34, Cannon 1-36.