High School Football

Familiar face, power-running team show St. James it has a ways to go in 5A football

West Florence senior quarterback Cooper Wallace scrambles as the Knights take on the St. James Sharks Monday night in Murrells Inlet.
West Florence senior quarterback Cooper Wallace scrambles as the Knights take on the St. James Sharks Monday night in Murrells Inlet. jbell@thesunnews.com

West Florence came into Monday’s contest against St. James knowing its identity on offense, and used its smash-mouth style of football to race past St. James (0-4, 0-1 Region 6-5A) 55-21 in the region opener for both teams.

The Knights (5-1, 1-0 Region 6-5A) are known for pounding the ball with a variety of runners. For the game, they attempted 47 rushes for 397 yards and seven touchdowns. The bulk of the work came from Ailym Ford, a 5-foot-8-inch senior, who slashed through the St. James defense to the tune of 240 yards and four scores.

“We didn’t want to run him that much, but we didn’t really have any other options that were effective tonight,” said West Florence coach Jody Jenerette. “He’s an absolute workhorse back there and it takes a lot to bring him down once he gets going. Everybody knows what we’re going to do when we line up, so for him to stay effective is a testament to how hard he has worked to be ready for these moments.”

Ford’s backfield mate, quarterback Cooper Wallace, added 65 yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns to help keep the defense honest. With only eight attempted passes, Jenerette had to turn to the senior to keep his offense moving with quarterback reads and misdirection.

“I wish we could drop back and throw the ball downfield to (back the defense up), but we just aren’t built that way right now,” Jenerette, the former Aynor coach, said. “We are able to move the defense side-to-side and try to get our players out in space where they can make plays. Sometimes, it looks like we’re ramming our head against a wall, but that’s what it takes for us. Hats off to St. James for their adjustments and what they did on defense, they played a heck of a ballgame and really made us work hard to get a region win.”

For St. James and Coach Tommy Norwood, Monday’s game showed how far the program has come to this point, and how far they still have to go to compete within their region.

“It’s a combination of (rust and playing a good opponent),” Norwood said of the result against West Florence. “You can’t give up three fumbles and a blocked punt in the first quarter. That was 28 points. … High school football games are lost more than they are won. It’s lost because you turn it over and give it to them.”

Jenerette and the Knights recognized the gift given to them by the turnovers and special teams snafu that allowed his team to race out to a 24-0 lead in the first quarter.

“Without those turnovers and the field position we got from them, we don’t win this game,” he said. “We were able to get our ground game going from the right side of the field to build a little bit of a lead. We got a few lucky bounces, but our defensive staff makes a point in practice to work on stripping and ripping at the ball. That paid off tonight.”

Deondray Stanfield had a breakout game for the Sharks, scoring three touchdowns on just five touches. His touchdowns covered 134 yards – 58 on a run and two receptions for 33 and 43 yards.

In tribute to a fellow football player and teammate, St. James painted special 25-yard marks on the field and the captains carried Pierson Thames’ jersey out for the opening coin toss. Thames, a kicker on the St. James team, was seriously injured in a car accident on Sept. 22, while the team was out due to Hurricane Florence. At the end of the game, Norwood spoke to both teams and led a prayer on the field.

“This was an emotional night for our players,” he said. “They had to get through coming back from a month off and then deal with the absence of one of their teammates, it was tough. I’m proud of the fight and determination they showed throughout the game.”

St. James will play at Carolina Forest on Friday, while West Florence will head to Socastee to battle the Braves.

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Scoring Summary

First Quarter

WF – Cooper Wallace 13-yard run (Michael Hayes kick good) 9:09

WF – Ailym Ford 26-yard run (Hayes kick) 8:21

WF – Hayes 35-yard field goal 3:34

WF – Ford 4-yard run (Hayes kick) 2:05

Second Quarter

SJ – Deondray Stanfield 58-yard run (XP failed) 10:48

WF – Hayes 38-yard field goal 5:12

WF – Wallace 13-yard run (Hayes kick) 00:01

Third Quarter

WF – Ford 2-yard run (Hayes kick) 8:24

SJ – Berkeley Young 33-yard pass to Stanfield (Young pass to Randy Smith for 2-point conversion) 5:36

SJ – Young 43-yard pass to Stanfield (Miles Herring kick good) 3:27

WF – Ford 5-yard run (Steven Snell kick good) 00:43

Fourth Quarter

WF – Nyke Johnson 62-yard run (Snell kick) 3:35

Individual Stat Leaders

Passing: WF – Cooper Wallace 5-8-80-0-0. SJ – Berkeley Young 8-15-118-2-0.

Rushing: WF – Ailym Ford 29-240 4TD. SJ – Garrick Lee-Jordan 10-85.

Receiving: WF – Sharrod Simmon – 3-58. SJ – Deondray Stanfield 2-76 2TD.

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