Socastee pushed the ninth-ranked team in AAAA to the brink, but in the end the Braves could not come up with the stop it desperately needed. It was the theme of the night.
South Florence held off a game Braves squad 27-20 to win the Region VI-AAAA title for a second consecutive season Friday night, but it did not come easy for the Bruins.
“We had to get this one the hard way, I can promise you that. It was a lot easier last year,“ South Florence coach David Prince said. “Socastee is a good team, and they are good at what they do in working that clock. They force you to take advantage of every possession you have, and for the most part we did that.”
The Bruins took a 27-13 lead on the Braves early in the third quarter when senior quarterback Nick Jones connected with David Vereen on a 16-yard touchdown pass with 8:13 left in the quarter. From there, the Braves held the ball for the rest of the quarter during a 22-play drive that was derailed by a 15-yard personal foul penalty deep in Bruins territory. Socastee then held the Bruins offense, and Socastee quarterback Jordan Hodge and Co. made it count as Hodge’s 4-yard scoring run with 4:04 left pulled the Braves to within 27-20.
The Braves defense almost – almost – got the ball back for its offense to give Socastee a chance to tie.
Facing a fourth-and-nine at the Socastee 40 with just over two minutes left in the game, South Florence took advantage of an aggressive Braves defense with a fake punt that netted a first down and ended any chance of Socastee pulling the upset.
“I told them in the huddle, we are going to look and see how they are lined up, and if it is there I am going to yell it out,” Prince said. “If not, we are going to punt it. It wasn’t 100 percent called (until I saw their alignment).”
“We were just gambling,” Socastee coach Doug Illing said. “I knew it wasn’t a punting situation on the 40-yard line. We had a defensive call, and they called a timeout. They showed us punt, and he got me. It was a good call.”
Neither team had much success stopping the other’s offense in the first half as the teams combined to score on the first five possessions of the game. The scoring streak ended when a Socastee drive stalled at the South Florence 38, and the Braves punted with 44 seconds left in the half.
South Florence opened the game with a 7-play, 65-yard drive that ended with Jones finding Freddy Sparks in the front-left of the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown toss. Socastee countered with a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive with Angelo Sauter finishing it off with a 1-yard run. However, the Braves missed the extra point to trail 7-6. Up next was a 10-play, 69-yard drive by the Bruins that featured Rodney Brunson, who carried five times for 28 yards including a 4-yard scoring run. This time the Bruins missed the extra point and led 13-6. Socastee tied it at 13 when senior Hodge scored from 8 yards out to end an 11-play, 80-yard drive. The Bruins made it 20-13 on the ensuing possession when Jones connected with J’Kolby Prescott for a 17-yard touchdown pass.
“Our team has just got a heart of gold, as big as this stadium,” Illing said. “Our defense tonight was our offense. Our offense kept them off the field by holding the ball and sustaining drives. We just couldn’t get a stop, and that was our biggest problem.”
Brunson, a senior, led the Bruins attack with 123 yards rushing on 21 carries while Jones three for 165 yards and three scores. South Florence (9-1, 4-0 Region VI-AAAA) host crosstown rival West Florence in the final week of the AAAA regular season next Friday.
Socastee was led by Angelo Sauter with 78 rushing yards on 24 carries and Keyon Clora’s 74 yards on 11 carries. The Braves (7-3, 2-2) end their regular season next Friday at Sumter.