ROCK HILL – Somehow, when the fog lifted, the Raiders fell.
In the first round of the Class 5A football playoffs, Rock Hill broke open the game with three second-half touchdowns, taking full advantage of four Hayden Jackson touchdown passes, and eliminated Laurens, 51-30.
The aforementioned murky fog hovered above the field in the first half. When it slipped away, so did the Bearcats.
“We came ready to play,” LDHS head coach Chris Liner said. “I hate for our guys it ended like this. I don’t know how to phrase it. There were just some things that definitely didn’t go our way that I have honestly never seen before, and some of the explanations I was given, I’ve never heard before.”
The two teams were penalized a combined 22 times for 203 yards.
Liner took issue with several calls against his team for chop blocks he considered legal.
“I wonder if I get fined for complaining about the officiating,” he said, adding later, “I’m not sure the rules were being interpreted the way they need to be interpreted. That’s not sour grapes. That’s just the truth.”
Laurens (4-7) took a quick 9-0 lead. Rock Hill (8-2) scored nine quick points of its own. At the end of a quarter, the two teams were tied 16-16, and at halftime, the deadlock was 30-30.
“We just thought we were tougher than them, to be honest,” Liner said. “We thought we’d be able to run against them. We’ve gotten better every week offensively. … Our guys believed we were going to win. You can just tell. I could tell it in pregame. I could tell it during pregame meal. I could tell it during devotion. I could tell it all week in practice. I am extremely proud that we didn’t just come up here and lay an egg.”
When’s the last time you saw both teams score a safety in the first quarter?
With 10:09 remaining in the first quarter, a snap sailed over the head of Rock Hill punter Colin Muschik, who wound up kicking it, anyway. He chased after it and booted it through his own end zone. The Raiders led 2-0.
Then Laurens marched 53 yards, and Jackson Mahon made a lovely end-zone catch of Ryan Campbell’s fourth touchdown pass of the season with 8:19 on the first-quarter clock. Devon Hubner added the first of four PATs.
Rock Hill recovered quickly, first with a 67-yard, Hayden Jackson-to-Narii Gaither pass and then when the safety bugaboo struck the Raiders. A Raider fumble squirted into the end zone with 3:48 left. It was still the first quarter. In fact, it had time for two more touchdowns, one for each team.
Gaither scored from a yard out for Rock Hill with 1:27 left, and Martin’s one-yard TD was set up by Jordan Woodruff’s 65-yard sprint. That was with 26 seconds left.
Each team scored two touchdowns in the second quarter, too.
Unfortunately, all three second-half touchdowns enlightened the home side of the District 3 Stadium scoreboard.
“We drove it down the field on the first drive of the second half, and then we got stopped by the 98th chop of the game,” Liner said.
For the third time in the past four years, the Raiders’ season ended with a playoff loss in Rock Hill. In 2015 and ’17, it was Northwestern.
“I felt like were were playing the Yankees in the Bronx,” Liner said.
Laurens 16 14 0 0 – 30
Rock Hill 16 14 7 14 – 51
L – Safety, 10:09 1st
L – Jackson Mahon 21 pass from Ryan Campbell (Devon Hubner kick) 8:19 1st
RH – Narii Gaither 67 pass from Hayden Jackson (Ethan Dutton kick) 4:17 1st
RH – Safety, 3:48 1st
RH – Gaither 1 run (Dutton kick) 1:27 1st
L – Duane Martin 1 run (Hubner kick) 0:26 1st
RH – Jackson 10 run (Dutton kick) 7:29 2nd
L – Campbell 12 run (Hubner kick) 5:50 2nd
L – Martin 7 run (Hubner kick) 2:46 2nd
RH – Cameron Walker 70 pass from Jackson (Dutton kick) 1:16 2nd
RH – Tay Anthony 34 pass from Jackson (Dutton kick) 5:00 3rd
RH – Gaither 2 run (Dutton kick) 10:41 4th
RH – Antonio Barber 29 pass from Jackson (Dutton kick) 2:52 4th
RUSHING: Laurens, Jordan Woodruff 6-97, Martin 13-81, Campbell 10-67, Shamare Dendy 5-25; Rock Hill, Gaither 22-121, Jackson 11-70, Noah Thompson 5-33, Raphael Wright 1-14.
PASSING: Laurens, Campbell 10-19 1 139; Rock Hill, Jackson 14-25-1 307.
RECEIVING: Laurens – Deonja Brown 3-58, Mark McGowan 2-28, Will Tinsley 2-21, Jackson Mahon 1-21; Rock Hill, Barber 5-70, Walker 2-78, Gaither 2-74, Durant 2-25.