It would have been enough extra motivation for Conway on Friday night at The Backyard if it had been the Tigers’ first meeting with Socastee as a Region VI-AAAA rival since the Braves dropped to AAA in 2004.
Socastee had already defeated the Tigers by 10 points in a non-region meeting five weeks ago, which made Friday’s 28-20 win that much sweeter, not to mention climactic, as the Tigers needed a stop inside their 10-yard line in the final seconds to secure the win.
“It feels good getting a little payback,” Conway quarterback Peyton Derrick said. “We’ve been thinking about that game ever since that week. We knew we had the talent and knew we had gotten a whole lot better than that first game, and especially it being a region game we knew we had to seal the deal on this one.”
Derrick had a lot to do with the win. The sophomore completed his first 18 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown before throwing his first incompletion of the game – off the hands of a receiver – with less than 2 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
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He finished 20 of 23 for 159 yards with a TD and interception and spread the ball to seven different receivers, with Malik Humes recording six catches for 43 yards and Deandre Huggins and DeAndre Hickman pulling in four each.
“I knew in the first half when we were clicking on all cylinders it looked really good,” Derrick said. “I wasn’t thinking about incompletions but it seemed like everything was going our way.”
The Tigers also received 99 yards and a pair of 5-yard touchdown runs on 17 tough carries from Jah’Maine Martin, who missed the first meeting with Socastee due to injury.
“They’re a better team than the first time we played them,” Socastee coach Doug Illing said. “Give them credit, their coaches did a great job and their quarterback and running back were the difference in this game.
“He’s a good quarterback and we made him look good. He executed their offense to a T. . . . [and Martin] is a beast. We just couldn’t tackle him there in the first half and he got a lot of yards tonight.”
Socastee battled back from a 21-0 halftime deficit and had a play at the Conway 3 with 4 seconds remaining. The Braves threw a touchdown pass that was negated by a clear motion penalty and had another un-timed shot from the 8. Austin Manchester recorded his second interception of the night by cutting in front of Maxwell Kjosa near the goal line on the left sideline to end the game.
“I pretty much thought they were going to throw it to their big man [Kjosa] and their quarterback looked right at him and I grabbed a hold of it,” said Manchester, who added that Kjosa wasn’t necessarily his assignment on the play. “I gravitated over to him. I had to play football.”
Conway drove 80 yards in 12 plays on its second possession to score on a Martin run. Manchester intercepted a Jordan Hodge pass on Socastee’s next possession to set up Conway's second TD, winning out as both he and the receiver arrived at the ball over the middle simultaneously. That set up a 10-yard TD pass from Derrick to Huggins.
Bryan Edwards gave Conway a 21-0 lead on a 70-yard punt return in the second quarter. He juked his way through eight unblocked Braves running ahead of Conway blockers before finding an open path to the end zone at about midfield.
Socastee appeared out of sorts from the start, taking a delay of game penalty before snapping the ball for the first offensive play of the game. The Braves had to take a timeout two plays later to avoid another delay penalty, and got another delay penalty prior to its first play of the possession following Conway’s first score.
“We made too many mistakes tonight,” Illing said. “. . . It hurts a lot. You shut them out in the fourth quarter and outscore them in the fourth quarter, you’re supposed to win those kind of games. We were in position to do it, we just ran out of time.”
Conway held Socastee without a first down for more than 21 minutes of game time, from late in the first quarter to midway through the third. But the Braves rolled up yards over the game’s final 20 minutes.
A 47-yard pass from Hodge to Buck Bacot to the Conway 8 set up a 1-yard TD run by Hodge to get the Braves on the board.
With Socastee looking to hold Conway to a three-and-out on its next possession and progress on its newfound momentum, Derrick scrambled for a 29-yard run on third-and-5, then hit Huggins for a 34-yard gain on a slant pass to set up Martin’s second 5-yard TD run of the game.
A 70-yard play-action TD pass to Kjosa over the middle pulled the Braves within two touchdowns again, and after recovering a fumble at its own 4 that immediately followed a Conway interception, Socastee drove 96 yards in 15 plays for another score – a 1-yard scoring run by Keyon Clora on fourth-and-goal with 4:33 remaining.
A two-point conversion attempt failed and Conway recovered an onside kick. But Socastee forced a punt with 3:20 remaining and drove 57 yards with no timeouts, only to be thwarted at the 3.
C–Jah'Maine Martin 5 run (Johnathan Nichols kick)
C–Deandre Huggins 10 pass from Peyton Derrick (Nichols kick)
C–Bryan Edwards 70 punt return (Nichols kick)
S–Jordan Hodge 1 run (kick good)
C–Martin 5 run (Nichols kick)
S–Maxwell Kjosa 70 pass from Hodge (kick good)
S–Keyon Clora 1 run (rush failed)
Socastee: Buck Bacot 14-64, Jordan Hodge 14-32, Nijaye Foster 9-34, Keyon Clora 5-23, McKenzie Pinckney 3-22; Conway Jah'Maine Martin 17-99, Peyton Derrick 7-44.
Socastee: Hodge 5-11-3–152; Conway: Derrick 20-23-1–159.
Socastee: Maxwell Kjosa 2-86, Bacot 1-47; Conway: Malik Humes 6-43, Deandre Huggins 4-55, DeAndre Hickman 4-41.