MURRELLS INLET — When you’re in a shootout, there is no margin for error.
St. James traded scores with a speedy Cross team through 3½ quarters Friday night, even holding a four-point lead with just over six minutes left in the third quarter.
But the Sharks committed three turnovers in the final 16 minutes of play, allowing the explosive Trojans of Class A, Division II to pull away in the fourth quarter to a 54-40 victory.
“I thought we had a pretty good chance but credit (Cross), they were the better team tonight and they showed it,” said St. James coach Mark Fischer.
St. James was flawless offensively early on, driving to touchdowns - a pair of runs by quarterback Josh Roper – on their first two possessions. But Cross (4-1) gave a glimpse of what was to come when Olin Pinckney flew down the sideline for a 70-yard touchdown on a kickoff return after the Sharks’ opening touchdown, then Dionte Evans got behind the Sharks’ defense on a 76-yard touchdown run on Cross’ first play from scrimmage to tie the score at 14-all.
The shootout continued through the first half with the Trojans taking a 28-25 lead at intermission.
The Sharks looked to be taking control early in the third quarter when they stopped the Cross offense on back-to-back possessions to open the second half and took a 32-28 lead on Austin Adams 16-yard touchdown run with 6:49 left in the third quarter.
But three Sharks turnovers on their next four possessions opened the door for Cross, which reeled off four unanswered touchdowns including a 69-yard run by Diamonte Evans to take the lead for good at 34-32 with 3:03 left in the third quarter and a 52-yard interception return by Devante Shepherd.
Cross, located in Berkeley County between the two Santee Cooper lakes, finished with a monster game on the ground, piling up 367 yards rushing on 48 carries and 447 yards total offense.
“Either I didn’t call the right defense, … and we blew some assignments,” said Fischer. “It’s not that the kids didn’t play hard, it’s just we got in the wrong position sometimes and did some things we don’t normally do. Then with (Cross) athleticism and their execution, they deserved to win. We made a couple mistakes on offense and that was the difference.”
The Sharks (1-3) had a balanced attack with 178 yards rushing on 42 carries while Roper completed 12 of 22 passes for 180 yards with two interceptions.
“We’re a growing team, a young team,” said Fischer. “We haven’t tasted success and the feeling of being a successful team. We’ll find something to build on off this and we’ll keep practicing hard.”
SJ-Josh Roper 5 run (Charles Overson kick) 9:42
C-Olin Pinckney 70 kick return (De’Vaughn Gooding kick failed) 9:33
C-Diamonte Evans 76 run (Devontae Shephard run) 5:13
SJ-Overson 21 field goal 9:49
C-Shephard 4 run (Shephard run failed) 6:37
SJ-Austin Adams 12 run (Overson kick) 6:11
SJ-Austin Adams 15 run (Overson kick) 6:49
C-Evans 69 run (run failed) 3:30
C-Shephard 24 run (kick failed) 9:00
C-Shephard 40 interception return (run failed) 7:57
SJ-Evans 7 run (Tyler Middleton kick) 2:15
SJ-Roper 7 run (Roper run) 0:38
RUSHING–Cross: Dionte Evans 10-131; Devante Shepherd 14-82, Diamonte Evans 6-97, Olin Pinckney 12-48; St. James: Austin Adams 14-83, Josh Roper 10-41, Tyus Goodman 5-17, Allen Crum 12-38, Brooks Hurston 1-7.
PASSING–Cross: Branford Halls 3-3-0, 80; St. James: Josh Roper 12-22-2, 180.
RECEIVING–Cross: Shepherd 2-61, Xavier Steed 1-19; St. James: Trey McCullum 5-50, Crum 2-53, Jacob Loud 2-25, Goodman 1-36, Adams 1-11 , Steven Deible.