PROSPERITY — In the preceding eight years that Newberry and Mid-Carolina High schools closed out their regular seasons against each other, the Bulldogs and the Rebels came away victoriously four times apiece.
Newberry, who had not won at Lon Armstrong Stadium since 2006, wondered if the Rebels’ two-game winning streak at home would continue as they scored the first 10 points of the ball game Friday evening between the two schools.
“I knew going into the game that we would have a tough time stopping their offense early on,’ said Newberry head coach Phil Strickland. “It is so hard to simulate it in practice.”
The Bulldog nation wouldn’t see this streak continue as the visitors scored 28 unanswered points to retain possession of the Hedgepath Trophy for the second straight year after their 28-10 victory.
The win improves Newberry to an overall record of seven wins and three losses, as they secure sole possession of second place in the region as they lose the tie-breaker with Abbeville while both sporting 4-1 records.
The 2012 Bulldogs become the first team in school history (1988 seasons) to score at least 20 points in each of its regular season games.
Mid-Carolina, meanwhile, finishes the regular season with a record of 2-8 as the Rebels went 0-5 in regional play.
Newberry felt a little bit like they were at Mike Ware Field as their entrance onto the field was amidst a tunnel of cheerleaders, parents, fellow students and fans while the Mid-Carolina players locked arms on their march towards their sideline on the opposite end of the field.
The game started off with both teams trading fumbles as Jemerio Gary recovered the loose ball for Newberry while Mid-Carolina’s Rashon Graham fell onto the free merchandise after the ball slipped out of quarterback Khalil Sheppard’s hold.
Mid-Carolina stayed on the ground six straight plays before Rebel quarterback Matthew Hawkins went to the air.
His 10-yard touchdown pass to Dante Boyd gave the Rebels a 7-0 lead after Dillon Pelton’s PAT with 5:27 left in the opening stanza.
Newberry would be held to a three-and-out as the Rebel fans came to their feet when Javarious Nelson seemed to have returned a Chad Davis punt 73 yards for the touchdown.
The Newberry fans pointed towards the clipping penalty that had been called, backing the Rebels to their 13, after another ten-yard penalty before the Rebels had even snapped the ball.
Mid-Carolina went on a three-and-out as they punted from their 18.
The fumble recovery that ensued two plays later might have been the most argumentative play in this series’ history.
On a second-and-nine from his 41, Sheppard rolled to his right on the keeper, getting the ball to the Mid-Carolina 46 for the first down.
Before anybody knew what was going on, Jay White started taking off with an apparent fumble towards the Mid-Carolina end zone, where he ended up finishing his 54 yard return.
There was much deliberation between both head coaches and the officials while the fans also voiced their opinions from both sides of the stadium.
Trying to determine if a whistle was ever blown before/after the fumble, it was finally decided that the Rebels would begin this possession at their 46, where the fumble recovery began in the first place.
Between the 3:10 mark of the first quarter and 7:25 before the half, the Newberry offense only ran two offensive plays.
Aside from the fumble, this was also due to the fact that Mid-Carolina put together an eleven-play drive that ended with Pelton converting a 28-yard field goal as the Rebels were now ahead 10-0.
Newberry, who was shut-out by the Rebels at home in 2007, but not at Mid-Carolina since 1986, was hoping to put forth some sort of potential momentum changing drive before the break, although they would be getting the second half opening kick-off also.
Never seeing a third down maker on this 65-yard seven play drive, Tysheen Nance scored the touchdown from eight yards out prior to Jose Lozano converting his first of four PATs on the night as the score was now 10-7 with 4:31 left in the first half.
Mid-Carolina had 129 yards of total first half offense while the Bulldogs had 115 yards.
Tyon Williams, who had only seen very limited action for Newberry since the Abbeville game three weeks ago, made a 10-yard carry on the first play of the second half but this run would be negated by a holding penalty.
With the high school rule stating that a player that loses their helmet must come out for one play, this fell into effect after Sheppard picked up six yards, setting up a third-and-nine from the Newberry 42 for Chad Davis.
Davis threw a first down pass to Tovaris Cureton to the Mid-Carolina 45. However like the train that could be heard off in the distance, Cureton kept rolling towards the end zone, as this was Davis’ third career touchdown pass, his first since the 2010 season.
Newberry had its first lead of the evening at 14-10 with 9:34 left in the third stanza.
Just 29 yards from the shadows of their end zone, the Rebels decided to go for it on a fourth-and-two.
Ben Chandler was stopped after a one-yard gain by Malik Glymph.
“We were trying to keep them (Newberry) off the field,” said Mid-Carolina head coach Louie Alexander. “They were coming right at us and defensively, we had just gotten off the field and we tried to give them a break.
“We didn’t get any movement up front and they stopped us short,” Alexander continued.
After an incomplete pass by Sheppard, Williams took the handoff along the right side for the touchdown and the 21-10 lead at the 7:08 mark of the second half.
Mid-Carolina worked its way down to the Newberry 21 as Pelton was sent out to convert a potential 37-yard field goal.
The kick was wide to the left.
The first play of the fourth quarter saw Newberry punting.
Three plays later, Jaylen Lindsay made an interception at his 20 but Newberry would turn the ball right back over to Mid-Carolina three plays later with an interception by Josh Schneider.
Working their way down to the Newberry 5 on this possession, Pelton was sent out again to try to convert a 23 yarder this time.
The kick was blocked by Vincent Cameron.
Davis punted with 4:10 left in the ballgame as the Rebels started out at the Newberry 36.
This possession resulted in five straight incomplete passes, including two fourth downs after a five-yard unintentional face mask penalty on Newberry.
Newberry punted with 1:09 left in the game and still in possession of an 11-point lead.
Matthew Hawkins’ pass was tipped by Malik Glymph before it was caught by Jaylen Caldwell, who returned it 40 yards for the touchdown with a minute to go in the game.
On the ensuing kick-off, Newberry’s Greg Bowers recovered the fumble.
Sheppard’s two knees ended the ball game.
Mid-Carolina had 182 yards of offense, including garnering 135 on the ground.
“You have to give them a lot of credit,” noted Strickland of Mid-Carolina. “They came out with a great game plan and stuck it to us. They played really, really hard.”
Nick Sims-Metts garnered 77 yards on 22 carries while Chandler accumulated 40 yards on 15 carries.
Dante Boyd got four yards on his lone carry while R.J. Boyd ran four times for 12 yards.
Hawkins got two yards on two carries.
Javarious Nelson got 10 yards on one reception, Marcus Chapman caught one pass for 16 yards,
Josh Schneider caught a seven-yard pass while the receiving department of Mid-Carolina ended with a 14 yard reception by Dante Boyd.
For the 10th straight game this season, Newberry had over 200 yards of offense.
Williams got 73 yards rushing on four carries, while Tysheen Nance recorded 19 yards on 10 carries.
Sheppard scrambled 12 times for 16 yards and Omar Sims saw 10 yards on four carries.
Eric Gallman had a single carry for five yards.
Cureton caught two passes for 73 yards and Jaylen Reeder caught a single pass for six yards.
“I’m proud of our kids not panicking and sticking to our game plan,” noted Strickland of the Bulldogs.
The playoffs begin Friday for both the Bulldogs and the Rebels.
As a sixth seed, Newberry will host Indian Land, an 11th seed. The winner of that game will travel to Memorial Stadium to face Columbia High School.
Mid-Carolina garners the 12th seed as they will travel to Pendleton. A trip to Cheraw awaits the winner.