Lou Bezjak

Lower Richland basks in last-second win; Spring Valley defense steps up in Tindall’s absence

Lower Richland Diamond Hornets defeated Myrtle Beach, 34-31, on a last-second pass and will face Hartsville in Class 4A playoffs this week.
Lower Richland Diamond Hornets defeated Myrtle Beach, 34-31, on a last-second pass and will face Hartsville in Class 4A playoffs this week. jblake@thestate.com

Lower Richland coach Rodney Barr didn’t get much sleep Friday night, but who could blame him.

Barr was up until around 4 a.m. Saturday trying to process what happened in the final minutes of Diamond Hornets’ win against Myrtle Beach and watching film on Hartsville, LR’s third-round opponent.

But it was the game’s final two quarters and final play that kept Barr’s energy flowing. He watched Tevaughn Higgins’ game-winning 45-yard pass to Deonta Jaocbs more than 20 times and was trying to come up with a catchy name for the Hail Mary touchdown in the 34-31win, which guaranteed the Diamond Hornets their first winning season in 27 years.

“It definitely needs a name,” a hoarse Barr said Saturday. “It was amazing to see, the kids and their excitement. It is something the fans and players will always remember.”

Barr said the team practices for third-and-long and last-second situations but hadn’t done it in about two weeks. The Diamond Hornets didn’t look like they would need one when they fell behind 24-0 in the third quarter.

But Barr said the coaches and kids never panicked. Senior linebacker Malich Jacobs gave a passionate speech at halftime, and the team’s offense finally got going in the second half.

Still, everything had to go right for the Diamond Hornets to get the ball back after a failed onside kick with 1:29 left. Barr thought Myrtle Beach would just run around or take a safety but it punted and went just nine yards to the 50.

Then, the Seahawks were called offsides and Barr said the five extra yards helped because Higgins was dealing with a shoulder injury suffered early in game.

“I have never been part of anything like that in my coaching career. That is a once in a lifetime situation,” Barr said.

Spring Valley’s supporting cast steps up

Spring Valley was without star linebacker Channing Tindall against Conway on Friday, and the rest of the Vikings’ defense delivered in his absence.

Darien Jennings and Ajani Tonge played in Tindall’s spot, and Vikings coach Robin Bacon praised his defensive unit in the 35-28 victory.

“We’ve got so many good players on defense,” Bacon said. “I thought we were going to win with or without Channing. Ke’Andre Jones had a heck of a game and made big plays. The guys knew they had to play hard without Channing, and we really played well defensively.”

Bacon said Tindall, who suffered an injury in the first-round game against West Ashley, didn’t practice last week but will play this week against No. 1 Fort Dorchester. It is the second time in three years the two teams have met in playoffs. The Vikings trailed 21-14 going into the fourth quarter before losing to the Patriots, 28-14.

“They are loaded,” Bacon said of Fort Dorchester. “I’m coaching in the Shrine Bowl and watched a lot of film on them. We could have taken most of their team.”

Return of the Hoff

Dutch Fork’s offense got a boost with the return of running back Ron Hoff.

The sophomore had been out with a foot injury since the middle of September. Hoff didn’t show much rust Friday as he rushed for a team-high 91 yards on 11 carries with two touchdowns.

Hoff’s return will take the pressure off Bryce Thompson, who has rushed for almost 1,200 yards in his absence. Thompson saw time at running back, receiver, quarterback and on defense in Friday’s 42-14 win against West Florence.

FC’s Davis has high praise for Abrams

Like many coaches in the Midlands, Fairfield Central coach Demetrius Davis won’t be sad to see Newberry’s Amir Abrams graduate.

The senior record-setting running back has torched teams over the past three years, including Davis’ Griffins’ squad.

“I went up to him before the game and told him I’m glad I don’t have to face you again,” Davis joked. “That kid is a heck of player and an even better kid.”

The Griffins kept Abrams in check, holding him to 97 yards and one TD in the 14-7 victory.

Skyhawks in a familiar place

After missing out last season, Hammond’s football team is back in the SCISA 3A title game.

The Skyhawks will make their 11th state title appearance since Erik Kimrey arrived in 2004 when they take on Laurence Manning on Saturday at Benedict’s Charles Johnson Stadium. Hammond is 8-2 in championship games under Kimrey.

Northside Christian to play for state title

Hammond won’t be the only Midlands team playing for a SCISA championship next week.

Northside Christian will play for the eight-man Division I championship in just its second season. The Crusaders face Wardlaw Academy on Friday at Calhoun Academy.

Similar path for Batesburg-Leesville

Batesburg-Leesville made it to the Class 2A championship game last year by winning four road games.

This year, the Panthers are halfway there. Batesburg-Leesville won its second road game of the playoffs, 42-21 against Whale Branch. Now, B-L travels to Region 5-2A foe Barnwell.