Dutch Fork’s steady offense and a blistering defense left no doubt about the Class 4A, Division I Lower State championship Friday night.
In a rematch of last year’s Lower State title game, the defending state champion Silver Foxes blanked Byrnes through three quarters en route to a 41-6 victory at Dutch Fork Stadium.
“It’s so exciting, it’s a great team,” said quarterback Tate Fant, who took over after Derek Olenchuk led the Silver Foxes to a 31-21 victory against Byrnes last year and a 54-14 win against Sumter in the state title game. “Coming into this year, there was a great feeling of uncertainty about this position. I just wanted to help this team out in any way I could.”
The Silver Foxes (12-2) will play Hillcrest, a 20-0 winner against Fort Dorchester on Friday night, for the state championship at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 6
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Fant was 8-for-13 with 116 yards and a touchdown, but operated in relative ease behind an offensive line that sprung Silver Foxes rushers for 253 yards on 40 attempts.
“We were just pounding it in the trenches,” Fant said. “We went three-and-out on our first series, but we ended up winning the battle in the trenches. Everything was working.”
“We did wonderful,” said Stephen Davis Jr., who had five carries for 95 yards and two scores. “The offensive line blocked well and the defense did a great job. We knew they were going to come in with a quick game, and we just did a great job holding them down.”
Matt Colburn led the way on the ground for Dutch Fork, keeping drives alive with 141 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries.
Dutch Fork sacked Byrnes quarterbacks Micah Young and Mason Streater eight times, and limited the Rebels to minus-5 yards rushing.
“It was awesome,” Silver Foxes coach Tom Knotts said. “We hadn’t seen that many people sack them. We hoped we could get after them with (the front) four, and that’s what we did. We didn’t ever have to bring pressure, Dominique Scott, Andrew Dunlap, and all of them put a lot of pressure on them.”
Scott led the way with four sacks.
On its first possession Byrnes (12-2) burned Dutch Fork with a 70-yard Young-to-Braylin Collins pass play that set the Rebels up on the Dutch Fork 24-yard line.
That was about it for the Byrnes offense in the first half.
Three plays later, Jeremy Addison picked off a Young pass, and Dutch Fork knocked out a 13-play, 93-yard scoring drive. Fant ran in on a quarterback sneak to give the Silver Foxes a 7-0 lead.
“It was amazing,” Fant said about the drive. “It gave us so much momentum going into the half.”
The Dutch Fork defense kept in Young’s face throughout the half, sacking him four times and stopping the run entirely. The Rebels had 10 yards rushing in the first half, while Young was 5-for-14 for 95 yards.
Meanwhile, the Silver Foxes kept clicking on the way to a 28-0 halftime lead. Fant hit a wide-open Austin Connor for a 35-yard touchdown pass, Colburn punched into the end zone on a 1-yard run, and Davis scampered in for a score from 15 yards out 31 seconds before the half.
“We were going berserk in the locker room,” Fant said. “We didn’t want the half to stop. We wanted to keep playing, we were so excited.”
Colburn scored on an 8-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, and Davis got loose for a 60-yard TD run in the fourth quarter to make it 41-0.
Only Streater’s 17-yard TD pass to Jaylan Foster with 6:31 to go kept Byrnes from being shut out.
“This year, we’ve never really been able to figure out this group,” Knotts said. “We just kept challenging the seniors, and, obviously, they rose to the occasion these last four or five games. I guess we’re going to keep pushing them, and maybe we can get us another ring.”
D – Tate Fant 1 run (Tyler Bass kick) 2:15
D – Austin Connor 35 pass from Fant (Bass kick) 10:26
D – Matt Colburn 1 run (Bass kick) 3:11
D – Stephen Davis 15 run (Bass kick) :31
D – Colburn 8 run (Bass kick) 3:10
D – Davis 60 run (kick failed) 11:48
B – Jaylan Foster 17 pass from Mason Streater (pass failed) 6:31
RUSHING – Byrnes, Hill 4-8, Scott 1-7, Bowens 1-(-1), Young 10-(-8) . Dutch Fork, Colburn 28-141, Davis 5-95, Irby 2-16, Fant 4-(-11).
PASSING – Byrnes, Young 18-8-2, Streater 10-6-0. Dutch Fork, Fant 13-8-0.
RECEIVING – Byrnes, Hill 4-25, Collins 2-79, Richards 4-35, Bowens 2-3. Dutch Fork, Sweeper 4-47, DeBoer 2-21, Connor 1-35, Irby 1-13.