Lexington coach Josh Stepp might not have been present at Wildcat Stadium on Friday night, but his offense was, to the tune of 522 yards and six scores in a 36-28 victory against Irmo.
Stepp was suspended for an infraction at Lexington’s junior varsity game Thursday night, but his Wildcats (3-1) took care of the Yellow Jackets (0-4).
“We played pretty good on offense, and the defense stopped them when it mattered,” said acting coach Chris Hamilton, who said he was not able to speak to the events that led to Stepp’s suspension the night before. “You can’t say enough about these kids, man, they’re believing in what they’re doing.”
Quarterback Will Hunter completed 21 of 31 passes for 299 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions.
Hunter’s top target, Keelo Norris, had 11 catches for 161 yards and three scores.
Wildcats leading rusher Garvin Jackson had 116 yards on 16 carries.
Running back Shyheim Copeland had 224 yards and three touchdowns to lead Irmo. Quarterback Demetrius Lewis rushed for 108 yards on 21 carries in addition to his 161 yards passing.
Irmo hurt itself with two fumbles and two interceptions, a factor that Yellow Jackets coach Bob Hanna said had to be fixed.
“Turnovers have killed us this year,” Hanna said. “We’ve got to stop it, or we won’t win a football game.”
Even so, Copeland and Lewis kept them within range of the Wildcats.
Irmo opened the scoring when Lewis connected with Nick Jenkins on the left sideline for a 51-yard TD strike in the opening two minutes.
Lexington responded with a 10-play, 77-yard scoring drive over four minutes, capped with Hunter’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Norris.
The Yellow Jackets made it 14-7 with 10:28 left in the first half on a 3-yard Copeland TD run.
Lexington closed the gap on Hunter’s 35-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Brown, but Kinsley’s point-after attempt failed. However, Kinsley’s 24-yard field goal later in the second quarter gave the Wildcats a 16-13 lead at halftime.
Lexington kept the momentum on its side from the kickoff to open the third quarter – an onside kick. Irmo’s Marcus Washington came up with the ball but fumbled, and Norris recovered for the Wildcats.
Five plays later, Norris caught another Hunter pass to complete a 21-yard score.
The Wildcats drove 82 yards in 11 plays to make it 29-14 on another Hunter-to-Norris connection, this one from 5 yards out with 2:58 left in the third.
Lexington appeared to run away with the game, but Copeland kept Irmo in it.
Copeland burst up the middle on a 39-yard score late in the third quarter to cut the Wildcats’ lead to 29-21.
After Lexington came back with a 29-yard Hunter –to-Brown TD strike early in the fourth, Copeland broke up the middle again for a 37-yard touchdown run to make it 36-28.
In spite of its setbacks, Irmo was deep in Lexington territory with three minutes to go. The Wildcats defense stiffened, holding off both Copeland and Lewis.
Grason Chumley, who led the Wildcats in tackles with 11, sacked Lewis for a 10-yard loss late in the game. Then Jordan Carr came down with an interception near the goal line with less than a minute to play to clinch the win
“We knew they were going to run the ball, and their quarterback was very athletic,” Hamilton said. “We knew they were going to have some big plays, we just had to stop them when we could.”
I – Nick Jenkins 51 pass from Demetrius Lewis (Trace Mills kick) 10:10
L – Keelo Norris 5 run (Christian Kinsley kick) 6:22
I – Shyheim Copeland 3 run (Mills kick) 10:28
L – Ryan Brown 35 pass from Will Hunter (kick failed) 8:19
L – Kinsley 24 field goal
L – Norris 21 pass from Hunter (Kinsley kick) 10:36
L – Norris 26 pass from Hunter (kick failed) 2:58
I – Copeland 39 run (Mills kick) 1:21
L – Brown 29 pass from Hunter (Kinsley kick) 8:48
I – Copeland 37 run (Mills kick) 6:10