JOHNSTON — Until this past Friday, Strom Thurmond High School had never given up more than 44 points in a high school football playoff game since it opened in 1961.
Newberry High School put that 54-year record to roost as the Bulldogs advanced to the upper state championship game for the third time in four years after a 51-28 victory in Johnston.
The Bulldogs won the coin toss and elected to receive the opening kick off.
Yafari Werts fumbled around mid-field to begin the game and the Rebels marched down to the Newberry 10 as their kicking unit was sent out to attempt a 26-yard field goal from the left hash mark. The kick bounced off the left upright at the 6:35 mark of the first quarter.
Working their way 44-yards in six plays, Werts threw a waist-high pass to Kaleb Rosemond down to the six-yard line.
Werts scored his first of three touchdowns on the night two plays later from nine yards out. The score was 6-0 after Ethan Day missed the PAT kick with 3:07 left in the first quarter.
The Rebels returned the kick off 44 yards as they only had 41 yards in front of them.
Strom Thurmond scored on a 29-yard pass play three plays later and a successful PAT gave the home team a 7-6 advantage with just under two minutes in the opening stanza.
After Newberry was forced to punt for their only time of the night, Strom Thurmond marched 83 yards in 10 rushing plays to take the score 14-6 after the three-yard touchdown run with 7:45 left in the first half.
Starting at their 26, Werts and Amir Abrams never saw the third down marker on their next drive, following their offensive line six straight plays. Abrams scored from 16 yards out.
After fumbling the PAT snap, Werts rolled out and found Zy Towns in the left corner of the end zone for a two-point conversion. The score was tied at 14-14 with 5:12 until the break.
The Rebels were held to their first of four possessions without a first down.
Looking at 66 yards in front of them and only 3:11 showing on the scoreboard, a fourth-and-seven play was preceded by an incomplete pass.
Keeping the offensive unit on the field at the Strom Thurmond 39, Werts connected for the 19th time this season with a 19-yard completion down to the 20. Abrams would score three plays later from two-yards out for the 20-14 score after the missed PAT with 31.6 seconds left in the half.
Starting only 43 yards from the end zone, Strom Thurmond tried a hook-and-ladder pass play to end the half but instead would fumble over to Jayquan Young.
Newberry had 232 yards of first half offense including 175 of them on the ground. Strom Thurmond got 130 of its 179 yards of first half offense on the ground.
At the start of the second half, Strom Thurmond lost a yard on two straight plays before being sacked for 10 yards on a third down back to their 16.
Newberry scored a touchdown through the air for the fourth straight week after Werts connected with Towns on a 53-yard pass play with 8:30 left in the third quarter.
Miguel Luviano was good on his first of four PAT kicks for the 27-14 Newberry advantage.
After fumbling the kick off, Strom Thurmond could only gain two yards before being forced to punt for their third and final time of the evening.
Having already a two-possession advantage to their favor, Newberry hoped to go on a long scoring drive to put the game all but out-of-reach. Instead, they only needed two plays.
After a 27-yard run by Abrams, Werts took it the rest of the needed 57 yards to put Newberry up 24-14.
In the third quarter, Werts scored his 50th varsity touchdown from 56 yards away to give the Bulldogs the 41-14 lead.
Strom Thurmond scored on the first play of the fourth quarter on a three-yard run.
Newberry kept the ball on the ground eight straight plays before calling a time-out with 7:13 left in the game. Looking at a fourth-and-goal from the five, Luviano converted Newberry’s first field goal of the season from 27 yards out for the 44-21 advantage.
Strom Thurmond was stopped six yards short on a fourth-and-nine, giving Newberry the ball only 28 yards from a potential score with five minutes left in the game.
Abrams got the call five of six times on this drive and the sophomore scored his third touchdown of the evening with a run of five yards for the 51-21 score with 2:19 left in the game.
Strom Thurmond scored on a 71-yard pass play before they were successful in retrieving the onside kick.
The Rebels were stopped for the third time in five possessions on a fourth down and Newberry picked up its first victory in Johnston since the 2001 season.
Newberry had 48 rushes for 435 yards and were led by Abrams’ 213 yards on 24 carries. Werts garnered 196 yards on 18 carries while Chris Wadsworth rushed the ball six times for 26 yards.
Towns caught four passes for 80 yards while Rosemond had the lone catch of 30 yards.
Newberry had 19 first downs while Strom Thurmond had 12, including none in the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs retained possession of the ball for just over 25 minutes.
Newberry travels to Fairfield Central for the fourth straight year on Friday for an invitation to the state championship game against either Lake Marion or Dillon at Benedict College on Dec. 4.