NEWBERRY — In what could arguably be called Newberry High School’s biggest playoff road win in school history, the Bulldogs denied Central High School’s quest for a sixth consecutive upper-state championship appearance as the visitors never trailed in their 21-14 victory Friday night in Pageland.
“They have an excellent, excellent football program, stated Newberry head coach Phil Strickland of Central. “Their players had a lot of no quit in them (after trailing 21-0) that really showed up.”
The Newberry fans, after making a two-and-a-half-hour trek to Chesterfield County and would eventually be on a ratio of 1-to-one with the hometown Eagles, had not even gotten to their seats hardly before Tovaris Cureton took the opening kick-off untouched and unchallenged 75 yards for the touchdown just 12 seconds into the game.
This was the quickest score this season for Newberry as Jose Lozano’s PAT put Newberry ahead at 7-0.
Central would throw three interceptions on the night, the first one to Dominique Quiller, his team-leading fourth one of the season.
Both teams traded punts twice, including a season-high 59-yard one from Chad Davis, which pinned Central at their 14 yard line with 3:56 left in the opening quarter.
With all of the fans now seemingly settled into their seats, the Bulldog nation came alive on the third play of the second quarter when Khalil Sheppard ended an eight-play 56-yard drive with a one-yard keeper up the middle.
After Lozano’s PAT, the 2012 Newberry team broke the 1998 school football record’s total number of points in a season as they had now scored 404 points with still 34:46 left in their 13th game this year.
Central worked their way down to the Newberry 28 before fumbling over to Newberry’s Malik Glymph with 40.5 seconds left in the half.
Davis ended the half for Newberry as the Bulldogs had 45 yards of total offense while the Eagles had 85.
Glymph made a huge play on special teams after Central started the second half with a three and out as his partial block on the punt caused it to go two yards.
Two plays later, Tyon Williams scored his 40th career touchdown with a run from 25 yards out.
Lozano’s PAT put Newberry ahead 21-0 with 9:50 left in the third stanza.
After Central went on another three and out to start the second half, four straight rushing plays and a delay of game penalty gave way to Newberry facing a third-and-13 from their 35.
While the Newberry team traveled to Central on two chartered buses, Jalin Alexander could all have but walked into the end zone on the next play but he dropped the Khalil Sheppard pass at the 20.
After Central punted, Newberry fumbled over to the Eagles two plays later.
This turnover ended the shut-out by Newberry as the free merchandise was returned 18 yards by Deon Walker for the touchdown.
Joseph Wallings’ PAT cut the Newberry lead to 21-7 as their fans had now been rejuvenated for the last 14:50 of the game.
Newberry fumbled right over again to Central five plays later which led to the Eagles soon facing a second-and-six to start the fourth quarter.
On a halfback pass, Alexander intercepted the ball, putting Newberry at the 35.
Newberry would be forced to punt after facing a fourth-and-37 after two Bulldog penalties, but the Eagles made it to the Red Zone with just over six minutes left in the game and still trailing by 14.
Quarterback Debias Tyson went to the air as he had a teammate in double coverage in the end zone.
All three went up for the pass but Jamal Gadsden came down with the interception, his second this year.
Newberry managed to take about 90 seconds off the clock before two penalties and a sack put the Bulldogs in a fourth-and-23 from their seven.
Davis checked to see just how much room he had behind him but instead the snap seemed to go through his hands as a wild scramble for it ensued with Walker coming away with it in the end zone for the touchdown.
The Central PAT made it now a one possession game with 4:38 left in the game.
The potential onside kick-off traveled backwards two yards, where Newberry took over at the 38.
Newberry punted after a three and out with 3:05 left in the game as the Central fans got to waving their spirit rags and making the most noise they had made the entire evening.
Without a time-out to their credit and 85 yards in front of them, Central worked their way down to the Newberry 24 in nine plays.
The next three plays are ones Central would probably just as soon forget they ever happened.
The first play came from a delay of game five yard penalty with 25 seconds, which preceded Tyson getting sacked for five yards by Glymph.
Central was now facing a fourth-and-16 with the clock rapidly racing down to zero and still 34 yards in front of them for a potential touchdown.
The Eagles quickly got set but Tyson unintentionally spiked the ball with 8.2 seconds, giving Newberry one play to take a knee to advance to the AA Division One upper-state championship this Friday in Winnsboro against Fairfield Central.
“They are a very, very dangerous team,” said Strickland of the Griffins. “They run well and throw well while defensively, they are stopping people as they would not have gotten as far as they have.”
Central had 215 yards of total offense while Newberry had 169.
Cureton caught one pass for five yards while Alexander caught a 34-yarder.
Jaylen Reeder caught one pass at the line of scrimmage.
Sheppard rushed the ball 15 times for 20 yards while Williams ended the evening with 103 yards on 17 carries.
Eric Gallman got zero yards on two carries while Alexander had one carry for three yards and Omar Sims got four yards on one carry.
“Games like this build character,” said Strickland. “When one team isn’t playing well, the other has to step up. It’s great to come up here and come away with a win as I’m really proud of our effort. We had to do what we had to do to win,” he continued.
The playoff loss at home was Central’s first one since they were a day shy of it being exactly six years in a 27-12 loss to Dillon.
All high school football coaches dream of having to work over the Thanksgiving holidays, in preparation of a semi-final or state championship appearance during this time.
In a past interview with then Newberry head coach Sam Baird when asked what he thought of having to work during the 1998 Thanksgiving holiday before the AAA Lower State championship game against Manning.
“This is fun,” he replied.