SOCASTEE — Coming into Friday, Socastee had already wrapped up home-field advantage for the postseason and with St. James eliminated from playoff contention, there wasn’t much to play for.
Except bragging rights.
Braves quarterback Hunter Renfrow was picked off twice by St. James senior Tyrell Dukes in first half, but he found the end zone twice on the ground and the Socastee defense contained the Sharks en route to a 29-6 victory to finish the regular season undefeated for the second year in a row.
“We played sloppy and turnovers and penalties really hurt us tonight,” Braves first-year coach Doug Illing said. “But I give credit to St. James; they had a great plan coming in and they played tough all night. We just hurt ourselves, and it’s probably my fault; we didn’t practice hard enough, I don’t know. We’ll look at the film and study it and get ready for the playoffs.”
Renfrow started the scoring for the Braves as he rushed for a 31-yard touchdown and completed a pass to Maxwell Kjosa for the 2-point conversion as Socastee went ahead 8-0. The Braves extended their lead in the second quarter after a blocked punt was recovered by JoJo Richards on the St. James 5-yard line. Buck Bacot scored on a 5-yard rush, and Socastee took a 15-0 lead just before the half.
Renfrow finished 3-for-9 passing with 40 yards and had 67 rushing yards on five attempts.
“He’s our horse,” Illing said of Renfrow. “He threw the ball a lot better tonight. We’re trying to challenge him and we’re trying to beat teams with his arm. If he gets better doing that, our team does too.”
St. James had a chance to score before halftime, but Renfrow intercepted a Josh Roper pass in the end zone and returned it to the St. James 45-yard line with one second left in the half. Renfrow attempted a hail mary pass to the end zone, but the pass was incomplete and the Braves went to the locker room with a 15-0 lead.
The Sharks found the end zone on a Jacob Loud 1-yard run with 5:24 left in the third quarter to cut St. James’ deficit to nine.
The Braves gained 265 yards on offense and held St. James to just 143 yards.
“All losses are tough,” Sharks coach Mark Fischer said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the kids. We showed up 2-7, playing a 9-0 team and I think our kids went toe-to-toe with them and fought hard.”
Socastee’s Devin Melko scored on a 2-yard run with 3 seconds left in the third quarter to give the Braves a 22-6 lead.
As rain began to fall in the fourth quarter, Illing elected to keep Renfrow in the game despite his team leading by 16 in the fourth quarter. Renfrow scored on a 10-yard run with 4:21 left as Socastee took a 29-6 advantage.
“The game wasn’t put away,” Illing said of why he elected to keep Renfrow on the field. “We can’t let them get a quick touchdown and then an offside kick, we can’t do that. We’re playing to win.”
Despite a loss to the rival Braves and a losing season, Fischer is already looking forward to next year.
“We know what we need to do [in the offseason],” he said. “And we need to build on that. We had a good offseason this year but obviously we have to get better. It’s a learning curve – we’re still learning – but my boys don’t quit and that’s all that I can ask for.”
Illing applauded his seniors after finishing undefeated in his first year as head coach of Socastee.
“I congratulate our seniors. Having back-to-back undefeated seasons is tough,” he said. “It’s tough to keep the intensity at that level and compete week in and week out without letting your guard down one time.”
Now that the regular season is finished, the Braves will be ready for whoever they play as they host a first-round playoff game.
“We’re going to come prepared,” Illing said. “I hear we’re playing either Berkeley or Hilton Head, that’s what [Athletic Director Tim] Renfrow said. I haven’t looked at it yet, but we’ll be ready.”
SOC – Hunter Renfrow 31 run (Maxwell Kjosa pass from Renfrow), 7:56
SOC – Buck Bacot 5 run (Matt Trimby kick), 1:41
SJ – Jacob Loud 1 run (Tyrell Dukes run failed), 5:24SOC – Devin Melko 2 run (Trimby kick), 0:03
SOC – Renfrow 10 run (Trimby kick), 4:21
RUSHING—St. James: Devane Hunter 3-29. Socastee: Delano Walter 6-107, Renfrow 5-67.
PASSING—St. James: Josh Roper 9-18-1 111. Socastee: Renfrow 3-9-2 40.
RECEIVING—St. James: Dakota Holmes 1-31, Jacob Loud 1-8, Andrew Tom 1-16, Stephen Deible 3-22, Hunter 1-24. Socastee: Maxwell Kjosa 1-31.
Contact MAX MCKINNON at 626-0302.