Lexington sophomore quarterback Cal Herndon made is first varsity start a memorable one.
Herndon threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more, including an 11-yard scamper late in the fourth quarter to rally the Wildcats to a 28-21 victory against Irmo in the season-opener Friday night at W.C. Hawkins Stadium.
“He made some mistakes, but his athleticism also allowed him to make some plays,” Lexington coach Perry Woolbright said. “It was a good beginning, and he will improve from this.”
Lexington trailed 21-7 late in the second quarter before grabbing the momentum.
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The Wildcats pulled within a touchdown when Herndon connected with Nathan Baxley on an 11-yard score on fourth down with 1:23 remaining. The Lexington defense then forced the Yellow Jackets to go three-and-out before JR Keasler blocked a punt to give the Wildcats possession at the Irmo 28-yard line.
Two plays later, Herndon found William Crouch for a 13-yard touchdown pass with three seconds remaining in the half.
“Any time you can finish off the half with the momentum, it’s really big,” Woolbright said. “We lost it early on, but we never gave up. To get that blocked punt and to score was huge for us. That made our kids believe.”
Irmo coach Reggie Kennedy agreed the two scores in the final 1:23 was huge.
“The momentum shifted right there at the end of the second quarter,” he said. “We got into a defensive battle in the second half and they got on a short field there and punched it in.”
It turned into a defensive battle at that point. Irmo’s Kendrell Flowers didn’t get a carry in the second half while battling cramps and ended up with just 19 yards on 10 attempts.
Lexington finally broke through after a 20-yard punt return by Bryson Jones gave the Wildcats possession at the Yellow Jackets 35. Five plays later, Herndon faked the handoff and went up the middle for the winning score.
“We knew we had to do something on that possession,” Herndon said. “The offensive line was blowing guys off the ball, and we were able to march down and score.”
THREE THINGS WE LEARNED
1. Rushing attack: Lexington has a good chance to feature a solid running game while Herndon gets more comfortable. Akeem Nicholas carried the ball 25 times for 163 yards behind an experienced offensive line that returns four starters.
2. Big plays: Irmo quarterback John Ragin was instrumental in giving the Yellow Jackets the lead. He hit Omarion Dolleson on a 97-yard touchdown as he threw for 213 yards in the game.
3. Heat: Both teams had a number of players suffer from cramps in the second half. With two more weeks of games remaining in August, that will be an issue until the temperatures cool.
HOW THEY SCORED
I – Kendrell Flowers 2 run (James Dooley kick) 6:47
L – Cal Herndon 68 run (Brady Bolin kick) 1:16
I – Oka Emmanworri 9 pass from John Ragin (Dooley kick) 10:35
I – Omarion Dolleson 97 pass from Ragin (Dooley kick)
L – Nathan Baxley 18 pass from Herndon (Reese Gettys kick) 1:23
L – William Crouch 13 pass from Herndon (Bolin kick) 0:03
L – Herndon 11 run (Bolin kick) 2:48
Rushing: L: Akeem Nicholas 25-163, Cal Herndon 11-97. I: Kendrell Flowers 10-19, Omarion Dolleson 5-34, Jansen McGahee 6-8, John Ragin 9-29.
Passing: L: Herndon 9-15-1-130. I: Ragin 12-22-2-213 .
Receiving: L: William Crouch 5-69, Nathan Baxley 3-62. I: Omarion Dolleson 6-157, Oka Emmanworri 3-35, Flowers 2-7, Diondre Shider 1-14.