Without star running back Dyverse Simmons, the Carolina Forest ground game has been, well, diverse.
This was evident Friday night.
Three different halfbacks scored before halftime as the Panthers took command over rival Socastee, and four different running backs ended up scoring for Carolina Forest as it rolled to a 35-14 win over the Braves.
But still, Simmons – who went down with a knee injury early on and is out for the season – is surely missed.
“Yeah, we miss him for sure. But I thought our run game and our offensive line did a great job tonight, and they’ve stepped up big time,” Panthers coach Marc Morris said. “We had a bunch of guys find the end zone, and that’s encouraging. There’s some things we could fix but I like where we’re at.”
Jaylen Johnson – who was last week’s leading rusher with 18 carries for 58 yards and a touchdown in Carolina Forest’s win over Loris – got the Panthers on the board early on, scoring on a 5-yard rush.
Then, Anthony McAfee took an 18-yard rush across the plane to give Carolina Forest a quick 14-0 advantage. And Jordan Ferrell became the third rusher for the Panthers to find the end zone, scoring from five yards out to put them ahead 21-0, and they’d never look back.
“That was huge,” McAfee said. “We really needed that.”
While Socastee would score on a Hunter Illing pass to Devin Stamp before halftime, the Panthers opened the second half with the ball and killed over eight minutes off the clock before Richmond Collier became Carolina Forest’s fourth back to find the end zone to increase the lead to 28-7.
The teams would trade late touchdowns, but the Panthers sealed it up with their success on the ground, which was due in large part to a strong performance by the offensive line.
“I love those guys,” McAfee said. “They are a huge part of why we’re able to get it done.”
Meanwhile, it was a tough pill to swallow for Socastee, which was coming off a 35-14 win over St. James. The Braves will travel to Conway next Friday.
“We hoped the momentum would carry over, but it didn’t and [Carolina Forest] took advantage early,” Braves coach Doug Illing said. “We saw some positives later on, but we’ll learn from this and keep getting better. We got a tough one next week in Conway.”
The Panthers will look to keep getting it done as they host South Florence next Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“This is the region now, so every game is huge,” McAfee said. “We know what we need to do to get it done.”