Swansea was hosting Strom Thurmond in a battle of top-10 teams in Class 3A — its biggest home game since the mid-1990s when they captured three straight state championships.
The game had a big-time atmosphere with over 3,000 fans, but it was the Rebels who put on a show. Strom Thurmond used four second-quarter touchdowns to rout the Tigers, 42-7, on Friday night and take control for the top spot in Region 5-3A.
“We came into a pretty hostile environment and played our tails off,” said Strom Thurmond coach Lee Sawyer, who notched his 100th career win. “That was a pretty good effort against a dang good football team.”
Strom Thurmond (7-1, 3-0) came in ranked sixth in the latest poll, its only loss coming against out-of-state powerhouse Eastern Christian (Md.) Academy. The Rebels made a statement on both sides of the ball against one of the four remaining unbeaten teams in Class 3A.
Shrine Bowl pick Darius Hammond finished with 176 yards on 17 carries, and his cousin, quarterback Javeer Hammond, added 111 yards on 16 carries as the Rebels finished with 390 yards of offense against a Swansea defense that had allowed 40 points in its seven previous games.
“Those two kids in that backfield are two great players,” Swansea coach Chad Leaphart said. “We haven’t seen guys like that this year. We didn’t as good of job tackling on those two as we needed to.”
It was a 67-yard touchdown run by Darius Hammond that got things rolling in the second quarter. After the Rebels missed a short field goal on their second possession, Swansea (7-1, 2-1) put together its only sustained drive of the night to tie the game at 7 on Travis Loadholt’s 3-yard run on the first play of the second quarter. The Tigers covered 80 yards in six plays on the scoring drive but tallied 42 yards the rest of the night.
“We couldn’t get anything going, and coach Sawyer is a heck of a defensive coach and we knew that coming in,” Leaphart said. “That’s what they hang their hats on, and we made some mistakes with too many three-and-outs.”
On the first offensive play after the Tigers’ score, Darius Hammond ripped through the line and raced untouched to paydirt.
“The touchdown right after their score was huge,” Sawyer said. “They had the crowd into it, and Darius takes it the distance. That was a big momentum swing and probably the turning point in the game.”
The Strom Thurmond defense then took over. The Tigers had 14 possessions, and 11 lasted three plays or fewer. Israel Talbert had two of the Rebels’ four interceptions, and he took his first one back 42 yards for a score on the third play of the game.
“Loadholt and Chavis are two pretty good players, so this is probably our best defensive effort overall,” Sawyer said. “All-in-all, we got some pressure on the quarterback to make him hurry some throws, and the secondary played outstanding.”
The Rebels took advantage of short fields in the second quarter to roll to a 35-7 halftime lead. The Tigers tried to punt it away from Darius Hammond, and the result was three possessions that started in Swansea territory after the punts sailed short and out of bounds.
James McKie extended the lead to 21-7 on a 5-yard scoring run before a couple of big plays ended in touchdowns. Javeer Hammond raced 59 yards right up the gut of the Swansea defense to make it 28-7, and it looked like it might go into the half that way.
But Swansea tried to get into scoring position after getting the ball on its own 20 with 48 seconds remaining in the half. That backfired when Kenyatta Dunbar picked off Chavis at the Tigers’ 30. Javeer Hammond connected with Ty Brooks on the next play to boost the halftime advantage to 28.
“The second quarter got away from us,” Leaphart said. “We had fought back and scored to tie it to begin the second quarter, but we made some mistakes and things got away from us. They are too good of a team for that to happen.”
Leaphart was very emphatic that his team needed to turn the page after the game. He wanted them to learn from the mistakes, but he was ready to get back to work with two weeks remaining in the regular season.
“All we need to worry about right now is working and be the best team that we can be the rest of the way,” he said. “We need to keep our heads up and keep working. This loss hurts, but this isn’t the playoffs and this isn’t the end. We still have a lot of football to play.”
ST – Israel Talbert 43 interception return (Trent Miller kick) 10:39
S – Travis Loadholt 3 run (Arthur Myers kick) 11:55
ST – Darius Hammond 67 run (Miller kick) 11:29
ST – James McKie 5 run (Miller kick) 5:05
ST – Javeer Hammond 59 run (Miller kick) 3:53
ST – Ty Brooks 30 pass from J. Hammond (Miller kick) :31
ST - D. Hammond 7 run (Miller kick) 7:05