Hammond hopes to keep on keeping on Saturday at Benedict College’s Charlie W. Johnson Stadium.
The 12-1 Skyhawks square off against Augusta Christian in the SCISA Class 3A championship game at 7:30 p.m. with the idea of coming away with their seventh consecutive independent schools title. Unbeaten Augusta Christian (12-0) has other ideas. The Lions want to complete a season sweep of Hammond and return to the throne they vacated when the Skyhawks began their historic reign in 2006.
If the regular season meeting is any indication, the title bout could be a thriller. Hammond lost starting quarterback Jake Nidiffer to a concussion in the first quarter, but built a 28-21 lead with three minutes to go behind backup Nick Garrett. AC, however, put together a game-winning 65-yard scoring drive capped by a 31-yard scoring pass from Tyler Roberson to Nick Fortenberry with 32 seconds remaining, followed by a decisive two-point conversion toss from Roberson to Sean Sweeting.
The 28-27 Lions win snapped a 10-game, six-year losing streak against the Skyhawks and ended a Hammond 19-game winning streak.
Last week, Hammond whipped Wilson Hall 27-6 in the semifinals behind senior Quayshon Myers, who ran for 216 yards and four touchdowns on 33 carries.
Augusta Christian had a tougher time dispatching Orangeburg Prep, 39-26, but broke open a tight game with a solid second-half performance. Roberson ran for 148 yards and three touchdowns and had 77 yards passing and one scoring toss to Fortenberry.
Myers has been brilliant in his first season as a fulltime offensive player, ringing up 2,236 yards and 29 TDs on 269 carries. Nidiffer is 130-for-222 passing for 2,211 yards and 23 touchdowns. Braden Shockley (39-882-10), Cannon Smith (34-469-4) and Doak Fisher (32-496-5) are the leading receivers.
Roberson has been outstanding for the Lions, connecting on 106 of 177 passes for 1,877 yards and 17 TDs and running for 986 yards and 23 scores. The backfield also features fleet Thomas Banks (153-1309-14) and bullish fullback Sweeting (73-489-6). Fortenberry (45-951-9 is Roberson’s go-to receiver.
On defense, Williams Love (122 tackles, 7 TFL, 1 interception), Ron Brown (88 tackles, 3 interceptions), Roo Daniels (38 tackles, 5 TFL, 4 sacks), Shockley (61 tackles, 3 TFL, 3 interceptions), Beau Acuff (72 tackles, 7 TFL, 6 sacks) and Sam Ulmer (34 tackles, 4 interceptions) are the Hammond headliners. Gaige Gilbert (91 tackles) and Terin Quarles (71 tackles) are the Lions top hit men.
The teams have met 13 times since Augusta Christian crossed the state line to join up with SCISA in 2004. Hammond has an 11-2 series lead. Saturday will be the fifth playoff meeting of the teams. The Skyhawks prevailed in the 2006 and 2007 championship games at South Carolina State’s Oliver C. Dawson Stadium, and eliminated the Lions in the semifinals in 2010 and 2011.
Looking for precedent? Hammond lost to Heathwood Hall during the regular season, but avenged that setback with a lopsided win in the 2009. The Skyhawks have not lost more than one game in any season since the championship run began.