Socastee had not seen a passing attack like Marlboro County’s all season.
Courtesy of Bulldogs quarterback London Johnson’s big game, the Braves finished their season at home in the third round of the playoffs for the second consecutive year after a 40-25 loss Friday night.
“They’re very, very athletic guys, and early, the speed hurt us,” Socastee first-year coach Doug Illing said. “That’s something you can’t practice. You try to corral it, and they get out and got a quick score; that kind of shocks you. … They execute what they do very well. They got a lot of open holes, and they were able to make big plays out of them.”
Johnson, slowed in the second half because of multiple injuries, returned just in time to hit his biggest pass of the night midway through the fourth quarter when he found Raheem Ward for an 80-yard touchdown pass. It was Johnson’s sixth total touchdown of the game, his fourth to Ward, and it prevented Socastee from making what would have been an improbable comeback.
The Bulldog quarterback had 378 yards passing, the most the Braves had given up all year.
It was a big difference from Marlboro County’s seven-point outing a week ago.
“We knew we were going to come into this game passing the ball after the offense got shut down last week,” Johnson said, referring to the Bulldogs’ 7-6 second-round victory over Hanahan. “We wanted to show it. We came out here and proved it. We knew the offense was going to have to carry the load this week.”
Marlboro County 11-2, finished in the regular season in a three-way tie in Region VI-AAA and was ultimately placed third via a defensive points tie breaker for playoff purposes. The Bulldogs, though, have looked like anything but a third-place team. They’ve already beat two previously undefeated teams in the playoffs so far after taking down Hanahan and now Socastee.
The Braves weren’t able to keep up, despite 110 yards on the ground and another 61 receiving from senior running back Delano Walters. Senior fullback Kyle Smith also had a pair of second-half touchdowns. However, the most Socastee could trim the lead to was eight.
That’s because of Johnson’s early efforts.
On the Bulldogs’ first offensive play from scrimmage, Johnson connected with Ward on a quick 11-yard pass. Ward, though, put a simple move on a defender and took it another 61 yards for a touchdown.
The duo connected two more times for touchdowns in the first half – one an eight-yarder later in the first quarter and another from 14 yards out in the second. Johnson, including a fourth touchdown pass to Deon Murray, ended the first half with more than 200 yards through the air.
Socastee hurt itself twice before the break on a pair of interceptions inside Marlboro County territory, including one in the end zone two seconds before the end of the first half.
Riding that momentum, the Bulldogs advanced to the Class AAA Lower State finals at Myrtle Beach.
Meanwhile, Socastee’s second straight year ended at 12-1 after an undefeated regular season.
“I’m very proud of the seniors and the tradition they have developed the last two years for this program,” Illing said. “The underclassmen have been shown a lot of good things in what a tradition has started. Tradition never graduates. That’s going to become a motto around here that we’re going to develop.
“Expectations are really high. Underclassmen are going to have to run with it.”
S – Delano Walters 17 run (Matt Trimby kick)
MC – Raheem Ward 72 rec from London Johnson (Hunter Stubbs kick)
MC – Ward 8 rec from Johnson (Stubbs kick)
MC – Deon Murray 8 rec from Johnson (kick failed)
S – Trimby 28 FG
MC – Ward 14 rec from Johnson (conv. failed)
MC – Johnson 7 run (Stubbs kick)
S – Kyle Smith 3 run (Trimby kick)
S – Smith 2 run (Renfrow run)
MC – Ward 80 rec from Johnson (Stubbs kick)