Friday night’s White Knoll-Irmo matchup at W.C. Hawkins Stadium included eight fumbles, three interceptions, 18 tackles for loss and two sacks.
On top of this defensive duel in the second round of the Class 4A Division-I playoffs, all White Knoll (10-3) needed was a first-quarter field goal from Lucas Bowerman to advance.
The Timberwolves’ 3-0 victory against the Yellow Jackets enables them to play Dutch Fork, a 63-28 winner over Boiling Springs, in next week’s semifinals.
“What a defensive showing by both teams,” White Knoll coach Gordon Walters said. “I’m proud of our defense. We beat a very good Irmo team tonight. We’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for Irmo. We’re just happy to advance.”
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The Yellow Jackets (7-6) had a chance to tie the game late in the fourth quarter on a fourth-and-1 at the White Knoll 20. It would have been a a 37-yard attempt for Irmo kicker Ben Hinson.
However, the Yellow Jackets opted to run on fourth down, but Shyheim Copland, who finished with 23 carries for 76 yards, couldn’t reach the first down mark.
“No,” Irmo coach Bob Hanna said about whether he regretted this move. “It was a half a yard, we’ve got as good a chance as anybody. Ben’s pretty automatic there, but we needed to score a touchdown. If we had to do it again, I’d do the same thing.”
Both teams battled on the ground for most of the first half — and mostly for small yardage.
The only breakout run was Lamar Ray’s 60-yard scamper to the Irmo 12 on the Timberwolves’ opening possession. The run by Ray, who led all rushers with 102 yards on 24 carries, set up the game’s only score — Bowerman’s 23-yard field goal with 8:12 to go in the first quarter.
Afterward, the playoff struggle was a battle of defenses. Irmo held White Knoll’s explosive wing-T and wildcat sets to small gains and fumbles, while the Timberwolves picked off quarterback Grant Davitte twice—Zach Collins and Jacob Poston came down with interceptions in Irmo’s last two possessions of the half.
“It was huge, it was huge,” Walters said of the picks. “We couldn’t give up a score right before the half.”
The Timberwolves capped Irmo’s offense at 35 yards on the ground and 47 yards through the air in the first half. Irmo’s defense allowed 129 total yards before the break — nearly half of which came on Ray’s run.
Irmo took the opening kick but couldn’t advance. To make matters worse, a high snap on the Yellow Jackets’ punt sailed over kicker Ben Hinson. Hinson tried to pick up the ball but fumbled it away on the Irmo 7-yard line.
White Knoll could have punched the ball into the end zone for a likely game-clinching score, but Yellow Jackets defender Matt Jackson intercepted quarterback Delvin Riley’s pass in the end zone.
The defensive scrum moved back and forth throughout the third and fourth quarters.
White Knoll’s only sustained drive came a couple of minutes after Irmo’s fourth-and-one. The Timberwolves drove 44 yards to the Irmo 13 to wipe out the clock and guarantee another game next week.
“There was no quit on either side,” Hanna said. “I’m proud of my kids. Both teams played hard, physical football. White Knoll’s played extremely hard and I’m proud of them too. They’ve got a good football team.”
W – Bowerman 23 field goal, 8:12
RUSHING: White Knoll, Ray 24-102, Tillmon 20-72, Weed 2-8, Riley 3-(-4), Hibaugh 1-4. Irmo, Copland 23-76, Davitte 7-25, Banks 2-(-5), Brooks 1-0, Lewis 1-6.
PASSING: White Knoll, Riley 3-0-1. Irmo, Davitte 14-4-2, Hinson 1-1-0.
RECEIVING: Irmo, Brooks 2-31, Copland 1-16, Suber 1-6, Wright 1-18.