The Dutch Fork football program extended its reign on the Class 5A mountain.
The Silver Foxes captured their third straight championship with a 59-20 victory over T.L. Hanna on Friday at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Since the South Carolina High School League expanded to five classifications in 2016, Dutch Fork is the only team to win the championship in the state’s biggest division. The Silver Foxes are the 17th team in state history to win three titles in a row.
It was the school’s fourth state championship, all under coach Tom Knotts. The North Carolina native has won 11 state titles in his career.
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“Three in a row, heck we can start going for four in a row. We will put up a sign four of a kind in the weight room and start working on it,” Knotts said.
Knotts’ players picked him up and carried him on their shoulders as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
The Silver Foxes, ranked No. 17 in USA Today’s Super 25 poll, finish the season at 13-0 and on a 25-game winning streak dating back to last season. Dutch Fork scored more than 50 points in all but one game this season.
Dutch Fork outscored its opponents, 770-131, this year.
“This is the best team I have ever coached,” Knotts said. “We have been hard on them and strive for excellence. I am proud of the way we hung in there the whole year and stood there with us.”
Dutch Fork quarterback Ty Olenchuk threw for 294 yards, three touchdowns and also ran for another.
The Dutch Fork defense produced two of the game’s biggest plays in the fourth quarter. On fourth-and goal early in the fourth quarter, the Silver Foxes forced a fumble and Tyrik McDaniel scooped it up for a 93-yard TD run to make it 38-20 with 11:39 left.
“I was in the right place in the right time and God brought me through the door,” McDaniel said of the return. “I took advantage of the situation and just busted my butt down the sidelines.”
On the next possession, Kendrick Allen forced a fumble and Edward Owusu returned it 11 yards to make it 45-20, 17 seconds later. Dutch Fork’s defense forced four turnovers, all in the fourth quarter.
Olenchuk bounced back after a shaky start. South Carolina commit Zacch Pickens intercepted Olenchuk’s pass and returned it 24 yards to put Hanna up 7-3 in the first quarter.
With the Yellow Jackets up 14-10, Olenchuk hit Gage Zirke on the second play of the drive for a 67-yard score to make it 17-14. Zirke finished with five catches for 182 yards.
The Silver Foxes took the lead right before halftime as Olenchuk hit Jalin Hyatt on a 24-yard pass with six seconds left in the second quarter. With TD pass, Olenchuk set the single-season school record for TD passes with 41.
“I said this before but the confidence with us never shifts,” Olenchuk said. “They went up in the first half but we knew what we had to do. With Ron Hoff, Gage and Jalin making big plays, there is no stopping our offense.”
Pickens, the SC Gatorade Player of the Year, finished with 40 yards rushing, four tackles, a sack and interception return for touchdown.
Isaiah Norris led TLH with 110 yards rushing and a score.
HOW THEY SCORED
DF – Newboult 23 FG, 10:21
TLH – Pickens 24 interception return (Billingsley kick), 5:24
DF – Olenchuk 7 run (Newboult kick), 1:15
TLH – Hudson 2 run (Billingsley kick), 8:37
DF – Zirke 67 pass from Olenchuk (Newboult kick), 8:10
TLH – Norris 7 run (kick run), 3:29
DF – Hyatt 24 pass from Olenchuk (Newboult kick), :06
DF – Hoff 1 run (Newboult kick), 5:08
DF – McDaniel 93 fumble return (Newboult kick), 11:39
DF – Owusu 11 fumble return (Newboult kick), 11:22
DF – Hyatt 9 pass from Olenchuk (Newboult kick), 5:18
DF – Hoff 2 run (Newboult kick), 2:38
Rushing: TLH: Norris 19-110, McKinney 10-70, Pickens 10-40, Lagroon 4-20. DF: Olenchuk 10-24, Hoff 11-48, Lloyd 1-27, Underwood 1-2
Passing: TLH: Meredith 2-2-0 14 DF: Olenchuk 13-22-1 294
Receiving: TLH: Hudson 1-4, Newell 1-1-. DF: Hyatt 5-84, Zirke 5-182, Borner 2-28, Hoff 1-0.