Chuck Jordan has been telling his players all season he wants to see a 48-minute football game.
Friday against Sumter, Conway made sure 24 minutes – arguably its best half all season – was more than enough. The Tigers overcame a double-digit halftime deficit, scored 27 second-half points while shutting down Sumter’s offense and went on to win 34-24.
The win puts Conway into the playoffs, but even that doesn’t begin to describe just how gutsy this one was to players and coaches.
Starting quarterback Mykal Moody (thigh bruise) was taken out after just one offensive series. Back-up quarterback Ethan Smith played well until he broke his collarbone on the second series of the second half.
Then, it was up to emergency quarterback Sawyer Jordan, one of the 19 seniors honored during a pregame ceremony.
“Ethan went down, and they told me I might need to go in,” he said. “I said ‘Alright, let’s do it.’ That’s big, that’s big time. I don’t know if I’ve been happier in my life. We were down 17 at half. Things hadn’t been going our way. The beginning of the season didn’t go our way. And we want to make a playoff run.”
At half, it looked as if Conway was going to be fighting for that chance next week. The Tigers, though, couldn’t have looked better. A defense that was being gorged in the first two quarters locked down the Gamecocks, specifically quarterback James Barnes and tailback Rayshad Bennett. Barnes threw for 157 first-half yards while Bennett ran for another 93.
The two Sumter stars’ numbers didn’t look much different at the end of the game, and as a result, they will have to wait and see their playoff fate. Sumter (4-6 overall, 2-2 in the region) is done with region games and will need some help next week.
Much of that had to do with the Gamecocks earning only six second-half first downs and failing to record a single new set of chains on three separate series.
Chuck Jordan said that was a product of defensive coordinator Kelly Andreucci changing both schemes and personnel throughout the season, as well as during the game Friday.
Meanwhile, Jordan – who had taken almost all of his offensive snaps this season at receiver – came in, connected on a long pass to senior receiver Malcolm Green and then kept the offense rolling. It didn’t hurt that the guy he was handing the ball off to had maybe his best game of his career.
Jaquail Crosland ran for 185 yards, including 140 in the second half. He had three second-half rushing touchdowns, including a 53-yarder that put the game on ice in the closing minutes.
Green led all receivers with nine receptions for 162 yards.
It sets up next week’s game at Carolina Forest. If Conway can beat the Panthers – something Jordan has done in all but one of his meetings against that school – the Tigers will finish no worse than second place in the region and will be in the hunt for a home playoff game. Even with a loss, Conway holds the head-to-head tie-breaker over Sumter and can start thinking about the postseason.
It’s a mindset that is already in full effect.
“I feel like we’re getting ready for the playoffs,” Crosland said. “Every game is like a playoff game.”
S – Reginald Jones 1 run (Cody Lee kick)
C – Bryan Edwards 7 rec from Ethan Smith (Ashton McCants kick)
S – Ky’Jon Tyler 27 rec from James Barnes (Lee kick)
S – Tyler 33 rec from Barnes (Lee kick)
S – Lee 27 FG
C – Edwards 18 rec from Smith (McCants kick)
C – Jaquail Crosland 2 run (kick blocked)
C – Crosland 21 run (McCants kick)
C – Crosland 53 run (McCants kick)
RUSHING—S – Rayshad Bennett 28-135, Xzavian Burson 3-11, Reginald Jones 6-26, James Barnes 1-1. C – Jaquail Crosland 29-185, Tyreke Phillips 4-0, Sawyer Jordan 3-(-)1.
PASSING—S – Barnes 15-29-1, 187 yards. C –Smith 13-19-0, 179 yards; Jordan 2-3-0, 45 yards, Mykal Moody 1-1-0, 0 yards.
RECEIVING—S – Kizhan Lewis 2-56, Benjamin Jackson 1-14, Jones X-X, Ky’Jon Tyler 9-91, Jeremy Edwards 1-8, Tyshawn Yates 1-11. C – Malcolm Green 9-162, Sawyer Jordan 3-18, Bryan Edwards 2-25, Taquric Gagum 1-13