In a game that featured over 1,100 yards of offense, it was two key stops by the A.C. Flora defense that propelled the Falcons into the third round of the Class 3A playoffs.
A.C. Flora beat Belton-Honea Path, 59-42, on Friday night at Memorial Stadium, and the Falcons advanced to host Union County and first-year coach Steve Tanneyhill next Friday. Union County topped Greer, 31-14.
“It feels good,” A.C. Flora coach Dean Howell said. “I felt like if we could get a couple of stops here and there, we would be OK. And we were able to do that, and the offense capitalized when given the opportunities.”
The two key defensive stops allowed the Falcons to maintain the lead when it looked the Bears were in position to wrestle momentum away.
Leading 24-21 late in the second quarter, the Falcons make a stop on a fourth-and-4 from their own 33-yard line to take possession with 4:43 remaining in the first half. The offense then went on a methodical 12-play, 70-yard drive to take a 31-21 lead into the half when Jake Lewis scored from 2 yards out with 36 seconds to go.
“They got the ball with about seven minutes to go, and I told coach (Mark) Cagle it was a great time for a stop or a turnover, and dang if they don’t go get us a stop,” Howell said. “I told coach (Bart) Miller they were going to get the ball to start the second half so we had to do something before the end of the half to keep momentum. We executed to perfection.”
Belton-Honea Path (8-4) received the second half kickoff and marched down the field behind the bruising running of Korey Thompson. The senior running back, who finished with 194 yards on 27 attempts, carried it 10 times on a 13-play, 70-yard drive and scored on a 3-yard run to make it 31-28 in the middle of the third quarter.
Bears coach Russell Blackston was hoping his defense would get a stop after the Falcons scored on five of their six first half possessions. They did just that with a three-and-out and had the momentum after taking over on their own 40.
But three plays later, Will Turman intercepted his second pass of the night to halt the drive.
Two plays later, Keith Goss raced 58 yards for the score, and the margin never again dropped below two possessions.
“We couldn’t stop the toss sweep on defense,” Blackston said. “That turnover gave them some momentum there and got things going for them. Every time we did something well, they had an answer for it.”
Howell gave the credit for that interception to defensive coordinator Cagle and to Turman for making a play.
“That was a good call by coach Cagle,” Howell said. “We disguised it a little bit by starting in one coverage and rolling to another, and they took a shot and Turman was right there to make the pick. It was a good play and a good call.”
A.C. Flora (11-1) scored on nine of its 11 possessions as the Falcons rolled to 605 yards of offense. Goss led the way with 133 yards rushing on 10 carries, and JuWan Simon added 127 yards on eight carries. The Falcons finished with 445 yards on the ground.
“Anytime in football, whoever runs the football best is going to win,” Howell said. “I think we proved we were the better running team.”
Goss scored three touchdowns — runs of 58 and 43 yards and a 12-yard catch in the second quarter — and thought they wore down the Bears in the second half. Goss had 125 of his yards in the second half and his running mate, Simon, scored on runs of 52 and 17 yards.
“We knew they had a good offense and really good players so we had to get a couple of stops and then make something happen on offense,” Goss said. “The backs had good blocking, and we ran hard and it worked out for us. Hopefully we aren’t done.”
Jake Lewis threw three touchdowns and ran for another. He finished with 77 yards rushing and 160 passing as A.C. Flora didn’t turn the ball over and punted once. They only other time they were stopped on offense came when they turned it over on downs after a failed fake punt.
ACF — Jack Grady 35 FG 10:26
BHP — Keinan Lewis 30 pass from Matt Williams (Parker Peeples kick) 9:10
ACF — Denzell Johnson 72 pass from Jake Lewis (Grady kick) 7:24
BHP — Kendall Joseph 5 run (Peeples kick) 2:10
ACF — JuWan Simon 52 run (kick failed) 0:33
BHP — Korey Thompson 22 run (Peeples kick) 9:52
ACF — Keith Goss 12 pass from Lewis (Goss pass from Lewis) 7:41
ACF — Lewis 2 run (Grady kick) 0:36
BHP — Thompson 2 run (Peeples kick) 7:49
ACF — Goss 58 run (Grady kick) 3:32
ACF — Simon 17 run (Grady kick) 11:23
BHP — Thompson 33 run (Peeples kick) 8:00
ACF — Goss 43 run (Grady kick) 4:46
BHP — Lewis 30 pass from Williams (Peeples kick) 3:30
ACF — Schroder Carlton 23 pass from Lewis (Grady kick) 0:57