Blythewood quarterback Josh Strickland gave Laurens fits on Friday night in the first round of the Class 5A football playoffs.
Fortunately, the Raiders’ Duane Martin gave the Bengals headaches, and the result – take a deep breath – was a 43-40 victory.
Gracious. Martin rushed for 231 yards and four touchdowns and was the best Raider on defense since Blackbeard the Pirate wreaked havoc on the Atlantic coast.
“I knew this had to be the game where I had to pick up the offense,” Martin said.
For Blythewood (5-6), Strickland was irresistible force to Martin’s immovable object. The senior threw six touchdowns, lofted the ball 52 times, completed 32, tossed a pair that Raiders caught and left town fortunate not to need rotator-cuff surgery.
Let’s just say Laurens (9-1) and Blythewood played wildly different versions of a game Knute Rockne wouldn’t recognize. Laurens rushed for 466 yards; Blythewood passed for 467. The Raiders averaged 7.5 yards a rush; the Bengals, 8.0 a pass.
For all that, Laurens squandered several opportunities to put the Bengals away. Laurens lost three first-half fumbles.
“It was a little like Easley (a 63-29 victory) last week, but [Blythewood] had better players,” LDHS head coach Chris Liner said. “They’ve got some offensive weapons. We felt like we were going to have to score most of the time, and we would have had we not turned it over.
“It was frustrating … but we found a way to win, and at this point in the year, that’s all I care about.”
With 10:09 remaining in the game, Blythewood led, 26-21. As the late Harry Caray might have said of a Cubs game, “Hold everything.”
Martin, of course, saved the day, returning the lead to the home team with a 41-yard scoring dash – he also ran in a two-point conversion to hike the lead to 29-26 – and 2 minutes, 27 seconds later, scoring again from four yards out to make it 36-26 with 7:11 to play. The latter score, his fourth of the game, was set up by Mark McGowan’s 41-yard return of an interception.
Both teams kept right on slugging. Strickland threw a 35-yard touchdown pass. Ryan Campbell responded in kind with a 27-yarder. Strickland threw another touchdown pass with three minutes left, but Cade Liner snared an end-over-end, yes, liner on the Bengals’ onsides attempt, and the game mercifully ended with Laurens at the Blythewood 9-yard line but needing no more.
“The defense has played great all year,” Chris Liner said. “It’s a team sport. We were able to do enough on offense to where it didn’t matter.”
That defense will again be challenged next week because Byrnes comes to town.
Blythewood 7 7 6 20 – 40
Laurens 7 14 0 22 – 43
L – Duane Martin 42 run (Jesus Esparza kick) 8:56 1st
B – Josh Burrell 34 pass from Josh Strickland (Jerry Finney kick) 1:02 1st
L – Martin 13 run (Esparza kick) 7:46 2nd
L – Jordan Woodruff 3 run (Esparza kick) 4:46 2nd
B – Noble Cooper 11 pass from Strickland (Finney kick) 1:18 2nd
B – Brandon Edwards 10 pass from Strickland (kick blocked) 6:13 3rd
B – Burrell 28 pass from Strickland (pass failed) 10:09 4th
L – Martin 41 run (Martin run) 9:38 4th
L – Martin 4 run (Esparza kick) 7:11 4th
B – Cooper 35 pass from Strickland (David Patten pass from Strickland) 6:05 4th
L – Ryan Campbell 27 run (Esparza kick) 5:14 4th
B – Patten 40 pass from Strickland (pass failed) 3:00 4th
RUSHING: Blythewood, Brandon Edwards 6-38, Aamir Washington 4-13, Totals 18-54; Laurens, Martin 26-231, Campbell 18-121, Woodruff 9-51, Zy Todd 3-35, Jeremiah Fuller 3-17, Totals 62-466.
PASSING: Blythewood, Strickland 32-52-2 467; Laurens, Campbell 2-10-0 41, James Rawl 1-1-0 30.
RECEIVING: Blythewood, Patten 8-125, Edwards 7-60, Burrell 6-124, Cooper 5-49, Washington 1-7; Laurens, Campbell 1-30, Jayden McGowan 1-30, Dee Foster 1-11.