In a game that featured it’s fair share of big plays, penalties and miscues typical of a season opener, South Pointe’s defense dominated in the second half to hold on for a 21-17 victory against Irmo on Friday night at W.C. Hawkins Stadium.
The Stallions limited the Yellow Jackets to three yards rushing in the second half and 76 total yards after the half to make three big plays by receiver Anthony Johnson in the first half stand up. Johnson had touchdown catches of 77 and 28 yards and set up a short touchdown run with a 47-yarder just before the half.
That allowed sixth-ranked South Pointe to open with a victory against Irmo for the second consecutive season.
“It was sloppy, but that’s what you expect in the first game,” South Pointe coach Strait Herron said. “A win — especially against a team of the caliber of Irmo — is better than an ‘L’ any day. I just worry about our guys getting complacent and feeling this is supposed to happen instead or working to make it happen. We still have a ways to go, and we’ll go back to work on Monday.”
Johnson and a couple of calls that went against the Yellow Jackets proved pivotal in the first half. Irmo jumped to a 3-0 lead on a 37-yard field goal from Trace Mills after consuming nearly six minutes of the clock on its opening drive.
But Johnson quickly erased that when he hauled in a perfect strike from quarterback Tay Blake on the Stallions’ second offensive play to make it 7-3.
On the Yellow Jackets’ next possession, they recovered an apparent muffed punt but the officials ruled an inadvertent whistle blew and forced Irmo to punt again. They would have had the ball inside the Stallions’ 30-yard line had the play held up.
The teams traded punts, and Irmo was whistled for a pass interference call on a third down that kept a South Pointe drive alive. Johnson capped the series with a 28-yard touchdown reception to make it 14-3.
“We had a couple of calls go against us. The punt they muffed and an interference call on the sideline,” Irmo coach Bob Hanna said. “We should have the defense off the field but they ended up with the ball on those two calls. I thought we played solid on defense except for a couple of big plays. We can’t give a good team 14 points and expect to come back from it. We need to make people earn what they get.”
Irmo’s De’Ares Nelson returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for the score to make it 14-10 before Johnson struck again.
The senior, who finished with 167 yards on five catches, converted a long third down with a 47-yard grab down to the Irmo 2-yard line. Josh Brice carried it in from there on the next play to make it 21-10 with 3:36 remaining in the half.
Shyheim Copeland rambled 89 yards with 1:43 remaining in the half to round out the scoring. Outside of that one run where Copeland broke through the line of scrimmage and outraced the Stallions defense, the Yellow Jackets gained one yard on 28 attempts.
“We get up by 11 and then let them get a big one before the half to make it a game,” Herron said. “We have to do a better job of not having a breakdown in that situation. Other than a few big plays, the defense played well with a bunch of new guys starting.”
Irmo quarterback Demetrius Lewis was 13-for-22 for 143 yards but he was harassed most of the night and finished with a negative 10 yards rushing on 16 attempts.
And that came with All-State player Zeek Rodney sitting out most of the second half for South Pointe with a leg injury.
“They have a good defensive front,” Hanna said. “I’ve seen those kids for a couple of years now, but I thought we made some plays offensively. But on the flip side, we gave up some big plays defensively.”
Blake, who started three games a year ago because of an injury to the starting quarterback, was 12-for-21 for 220 yards and two scores.
“Blake did well when he didn’t get happy feet and start throwing the ball where it didn’t need to be thrown,” Herron said. “We have to keep working on that but he played well.”
South Pointe had a few calls go against it as well. The Stallions had two long scoring passes called back because of penalties.
I – Trace Mills 37 FG 6:05
SP – Anthony Johnson 77 pass from Tay Blake (Kyle Dix kick) 5:23
SP – Johnson 28 pass from Blake (Dix kick) 8:09
I – De’Ares Nelson 85 kick-off return (Mills kick) 7:56
SP – Josh Brice 2 run (Dix kick) 3:36
I – Shyheim Copeland 89 run (Mills kick) 1:43