NEWBERRY — Holding on to a one-point lead with under three minutes to go in the game, Union County High School quarterback De’Arrius Smith fumbled to Newberry High’s Tyjil Brown 43 yards from the Bulldog end zone Friday night.
On a third-and-six from the Yellow Jackets’ 11-yard line, Bulldog quarterback Yafari Werts scrambled to his left then dove the final two yards for the touchdown and the 40-35 go-ahead score with 21.5 seconds left in the game, putting Newberry one defensive stop from defeating Union County at home.
Union County had the ball and all three of its time outs after a line drive kick-off just 46 yards from the winning score.
Union County picked up 27 yards in one pass play, getting the ball down to the 19 before an incomplete pass fell in the end zone, setting up a second-and-10 with 5.4 seconds left. Smith’s pass was broken up by Jayquan Young.
The Bulldogs took more than nine minutes off the first quarter clock before ending a 13-play drive with a punt. The Yellow Jackets were held to a three-and-out, then Newberry fumbled two plays later.
On the fourth play of the second quarter, Smith connected with Shemar Glenn for a four-yard touchdown pass before Blake Berry connected on his first of five successful extra-point kicks.
Newberry let Union County enjoy its 7-point lead for just over three minutes when their only hiccup on their next possession was a false start five-yard penalty.
Scrambling toward his sideline, Werts picked up the needed 10 yards for the first down but a 15-yard facemask penalty would be added on, putting Newberry at the 23.
Werts scored on a seven-yard run three plays later and Bryan Guevara’s PAT was good with 7:38 left in the first half.
After a trade of punts, Union County got its last points of the first half with a 74-yard six play drive that came through the air. The Yellow Jackets regained the lead with an 18-yard pass from Smith to Montray Fester for the score.
Newberry went right to work on its next drive with a 12-play 71-yard drive that ended with 35.9 seconds to go in the first half when Omar Sims took it in from four yards out. The PAT was no good.
Kalil Sheppard intercepted Smith’s pass one play later, putting Newberry at the Union 46. Werts rushed for 33 yards before Newberry reached the one-yard line after a 12-yard pass to Sharif Glymph. Werts scored and a successful two-point pass play from Werts to Sims gave Newberry the 21-14 halftime lead.
The Yellow Jackets tied the score at the 5:39 mark of the third quarter when Smith and Glenn combined forces for a 31-yard pass play.
Xizabian Sims Boyd returned the ensuing kickoff 54 yards for Newberry, putting them at the Union County 34.
Three plays later on a second-and-17, Werts’ pass to Demarcus Gilmore resulted in a 27-yard grab for the touchdown. The PAT was good and Newberry retook the lead at 28-21 at the 4:04 mark in the third quarter.
Union County’s Shi Smith returned the kickoff 80 yards for the touchdown, tying the score at 28-28 just 13 seconds later.
After a three-and-out by Newberry, Union County got its last score when Smith scored his second touchdown with a 39-yard pass reception with just under a minute left in the third quarter.
Sims scored on the fourth play of the final stanza with a 24-yard run but the PAT was no good.
Union County drove down to the Newberry five in five plays setting up a first-and-goal.
Lorenzo Goodwin sacked Smith for a five-yard loss before the Yellow Jackets would be penalized 15 yards and a loss of down for attempting to throw a pass beyond the line of scrimmage.
Union County was suddenly looking at fourth-and-goal from the 22 yard line. Gilmore sacked Smith for a nine-yard loss with 7:14 left in the game.
Newberry was forced to punt five plays later before Brown’s ensuing pressure on Smith helped cause the fumble which the Bulldog junior recovered setting up the winning drive.
For the night, Newberry rushed the ball 57 times for 294 yards. Sims got 127 yards on 17 carries while Werts got 92 yards on 22 carries. Newberry’s Zy Towns had to be taken off the field in an ambulance after suffering an ankle injury.
Werts completed 9 of 14 passes for 93 yards. Glymph, Brown and Gilmore each had over 20 yards in reception yardage.
Union County had 108 yards of first-half offense while Newberry had 219. Union County passed for 283 yards and rushed for 86 yards.