In a news conference this week, Gaffney coach Dan Jones insisted his squad was not a bully. But on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium, the Indians beat up on Dutch Fork to win the Class 4A Division I championship.
Gaffney defeated upstart Dutch Fork 34-22 to earn the program’s 16th S.C. High School League title — the most in state history.
Silver Foxes coach Tom Knotts was proud of his team’s effort in its first title-game appearance.
“It’s always nice to reach this level. Obviously, we want to be here all the time and we want to win,” Knotts said.
He said the Silver Foxes’ four first-half turnovers made the difference.
“You don’t win big games like that when you turn it over like that,” Knotts said. “I’m real proud of the guys. They didn’t quit. They played to the last minute; we just, basically, gave it away.”
The Indians were, mostly, not swayed by Dutch Fork’s defensive efforts, rattling off big gains almost at will.
“We felt like we could move the ball but we knew we were going to have a hard time stopping them,” Gaffney coach Dan Jones said.
On the first play form scrimmage in the second half, Hyleck Foster broke off a 44-yard run to put Gaffney in the red zone, from where the Indians settled for a 21-yard field goal.
Trailing by 20, Dutch Fork responded.
Powered by rushing from senior Trey Gregg and sophomore Matt Colburn, the Silver Foxes drove 60 yards to make it a two-possession game with 16 minutes to go.
But Shaq Davidson re-upped Gaffney with a 38-yard touchdown completion to Eddie Studyvance.
Dutch Fork’s hole was dug early, as Gaffney scored twice in the first three minutes. The Silver Foxes trailed by 17 through the second quarter.
“When we got ahead there, we really made it hard on them,” Jones said. “That’s always the objective — try to get on the board as quick as you can and maybe put a little doubt in the opponent.”
Though Dutch Fork appeared to dominate the half offensively — controlling the ball for more than 15 minutes, with 195 yards to Gaffney’s 166, 10 first downs and 40 plays to Gaffney’s six and 21 — the Silver Foxes could not take the lead where it counted.
Dutch Fork’s first drive was a three-and-out that saw the Silver Foxes advance two yards before punting. Starting at their 35, the Indians’ misdirection opened a gap on the right side that quarterback Davidson exploited. He rushed 50 yards to score.
On the Silver Foxes’ next attempt, an interception gave Gaffney the ball at Dutch Fork’s 15, setting up a 31-yard Victor Ramirez field goal.
Their fourth possession ended with another interception. This time from the Dutch Fork 25, Gaffney used three plays — the last a 19-yard Davidson dash — to widen the margin to 17-0.
With 3:56 left in the first quarter, there was plenty of time for the Silver Foxes to turn things around.
“We felt like we had them at one point and then we kept making mistakes and making mistakes,” said senior receiver Jordan Berry.
When Derek Olenchuk completed an 18-yard pass to Colburn that moved the chains to the Gaffney 24, the Silver Foxes began to look like the squad that had wreaked havoc on defenses through the season.
Dutch Fork drove into the second quarter and got on the board when Colburn snuck in from 1 yard out to complete a 16-play, 7-minute drive.
But Gaffney scored again when Davidson hit O’Bryant Davidson with a pass near the 30, and the receiver rode the boundary into the end zone.
The Silver Foxes closed the period with a fumble, and Gaffney held a 24-7 halftime advantage.
Gaffney’s defense was led by Quan Weeks and Raheim Husky, who each had 15 tackles and an interception. Lane Ecton posted 10 tackles for the Silver Foxes.
G: Shaq Davidson 50 run (Victor Ramirez kick)
G: Ramirez 31 field goal
G: Davidson 19 run (Ramirez kick)
D: Matt Colburn 1 run (Tyler Bass kick)
G: O’Bryant Davidson 44 pass from Shaq Davidson (Ramirez kick)
G: Ramirez 21 field goal
D: Trey Gregg 2 run (Bass kick)
G: Eddie Studyvance 38 pass from Davidson (Ramirez kick)
D: Jordan Berry 7 pass from Derek Olenchuk (Gregg run)