FLORENCE — Wilson got Socastee’s attention right away Friday night. And a fully attentive Braves team was the last thing the Tigers probably wanted to see.
After Wilson’s Ga’Quan Maize returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, Socastee answered and never looked back, rolling to a 45-13 victory at Memorial Stadium on the Tigers’ homecoming.
“They’ve got a lot of athletes, very talented,” Socastee coach Doug Illing said. “We knew not to take them lightly, that they’d come out fighting hard, and they did. Our kids had to respond to a little adversity there, hold on, settle down and just execute. I’m real proud of our guys for doing that.”
The Braves (9-0, 4-0 Region 7-3A) clinched the top seed in the region with one regular-season game remaining next week against St. James.
“That’s the first goal of the season, to win the region championship,” Illing said. “We’ve got one more regular-season game to go, then we get to start a new season.”
The Braves used a 21-point second quarter to put some distance between themselves and the Tigers (2-7, 1-3), getting a 59-yard touchdown run from quarterback Hunter Renfrow and a pair of scores from fullback Kyle Smith.
Smith caught a 36-yard scoring pass from Renfrow with 5:22 left in the first half to make it 21-13, and punched in a score from the 1 with 2:26 left before halftime to give the Braves a 28-13 lead at the break.
The Tigers still had some life at that point, but Delano Walters took care of that quickly in the third quarter, returning the second-half kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown to make it 35-13.
“We made some minor adjustments at halftime and they just came out and kind of punched us in the gut, took the wind out of us and the life out of the stadium,” Wilson coach Chad Eaddy said. “People started heading for the exits after that. Our kids kind of got down there.”
Wilson looked early like it might be up to the challenge against the third-ranked ranked AA team in the South Carolina prep football media poll.
After Renfrow’s long run made it 14-7 with 8:41 left in the second quarter, the Tigers answered when quarterback T.J. Frederick and Kendrick Johnson hooked up for a 77-yard score.
But the Braves were simply too much for Wilson to handle up front, on both sides of the ball.
“They’re just so strong up front,” Eaddy said. “Their strongest point is our weakest point, and that makes it difficult. The kids are out there giving you everything they’ve got. It’s one of those situations where it’s Murphy’s Law when it comes to strength in the trenches.”
W — Ga’Quan Maize 99 kickoff return (Luke Carter kick), :11:45
S — Kyle Smith 3 run (Matt Trimby kick), 8:23
S — Hunter Renfrow 59 run (Trimby kick), 8:41
W — Kendrick Johnson 77 pass from T.J. Frederick (kick failed), 7:22
S — Smith 36 pass from Hunter Renfrow (Trimby kick), 5:22
S — Smith 1 run (Trimby kick), 2:26
S — Delano Walters 88 kickoff return (Trimby kick), 11:46
S — Stephen Gursky 16 pass from Jordan Hodge (Trimby kick), 5:01
S — Trimby FG 23, :07