Airport picked the right time to end a losing streak to its rival.
The Eagles took advantage of four turnovers and got a lift from backup quarterback Markco Gilmore in the second half to defeat Brookland-Cayce, 38-27, on Sunday afternoon.
The win snaps Airport’s three-game losing streak to B-C and earns the Eagles co-Region 5-4A champion honors with North Augusta. The Eagles will host either Marlboro County, North Myrtle Beach or Wilson in a first-round playoff game Nov. 9.
Airport went 3-8 last season and lost in the first round of the playoffs.
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“I have had the same staff for about 15 years, and when we have a bad season, we always bounce back,” Airport coach Kirk Burnett said. “Sometimes, you are going to have bad years, but it is a testament to our players and coaches that we know we can always bounce back.”
Brookland-Cayce would have won the region outright with a victory but now ends up with the fourth seed from the region and will travel to Beaufort in the first round of the playoffs.
The game was moved to Sunday because of rain in Midlands on Friday night. It didn’t start well for the Eagles, who lost to B-C earlier this year and trailed 14-0 less than halfway through the first quarter.
But quarterback Brandon Caughman hit Emari Melador for a 19-yard touchdown for Airport’s first score. The Eagles recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, and Caughman scored on a 14-yard run to tie it at 14 with 2:38 left in the first.
Airport (7-3) took its first lead of the game after B-C quarterback Reed Charpia fumbled deep in Bearcat territory. Caughman scored on a 2-yard run to give the Eagles a 28-21 lead with 15 seconds left in the second quarter.
Caughman was 14-of-20 with 136 yards before leaving with a back injury in the third quarter. Nanders Lawrence added 145 yards on the ground, and Airport finished with 209 yards on the ground.
After Caughman left, B-C (6-4) scored on the next possession as Charpia hit Cam Morris on a 28-yard TD pass with 4:44 left in the third, but Airport kept the lead after the extra point was blocked.
Airport answered on its next possession when Gilmore, who Burnett said hadn’t taken a snap at quarterback in about six weeks, scored on an 8-yard run to make it 35-27 with 1:10 left in the third.
“Markco played real good. He hasn’t much of a chance at quarterback because he is playing both sides of the ball,” Caughman said. “And he came in and played really good.”
B-C looked like it would have a chance to cut the lead and tie it, but Charpia’s 91-yard touchdown pass was called back because he crossed the line of scrimmage. That was just one of several penalties for both teams.
Airport’s Haden Rimer added a 29-yard field goal and Izaiah Walker-Warren picked off Charpia with 2:11 left to seal the win.
THREE THINGS WE LEARNED
1. Airport is a scrappy bunch. The Eagles could have folded when they got down 14-0 but hung in there with defense and strong running game.
2. Turnovers were the difference. Airport turned it over six times in the first meeting against B-C but didn’t have any in the rematch. The Bearcats had four.
3. Sunday football not a bad idea. Weather forced game to be moved to Sunday, and it seemed to be a big hit with a good crowd on both sides.
HOW THEY SCORED
BC – Morris 9 run (Honeycutt kick), 9:01
BC – Jamison 66 pass from Charpia (Honeycutt), 6:47
A – Melador 19 pass from Caughman (Rimer kick),
A – Caughman 14 run (Rimer kick), 2:38
BC – Glenn 2 run (Honeycutt kick), 9:42
A – Lewis 9 run (Rimer kick), 2:28
A – Caughman 2 run (Rimer kick), 0:15
BC – Morris 28 pass from Charpia (kick failed), 4:44
A – Gilmore 8 run (Rimer kick), 1:10
A – Rimer 26 FG, 3:32