SUMMERVILLE — Two weeks ago, Sumter trailed Mauldin 14-0 and won the Division I-AAAA state playoff game. Last week, the Gamecocks trailed No. 2 seed Hillcrest by 21 and won.
When Summerville scored a pair of touchdowns in a 10-second span in the first quarter to take a 14-0 lead on Friday, Sumter coach Reggie Kennedy’s finger wasn’t getting itchy. He didn’t even think about pushing the proverbial panic button.
For the third straight week, the Gamecocks recovered, rallied and rolled on. Sumter topped the Green Wave 28-27 to post its seventh straight victory and clinch a berth in Saturday’s state championship game. The Gamecocks, who upped their record to 9-5, will play Dutch Fork at 6 p.m. for the state title. Dutch Fork stunned Byrnes in the Upper State championship.
“I kept reminding the coaches, ‘Let’s just coach them through this. Let’s just coach them through this.’ ”
Sumter did it the hard way against the Green Wave. They erased the 14-point first-half lead and another 13-point deficit in the second half to win. The Gamecocks put together the game-winning 95-yard drive on 12 plays. It was capped when Xavion Brunson took a short pass from James Barnes and turned it into a 40-yard touchdown with 1:32 left in the game. Vince Watkins kicked the PAT to provide a one-point lead.
Jaylan Lewis picked off a pass to seal the Green Wave’s fate.
“I think the man above us was looking down,” Kennedy said of the final drive that was aided by a Summerville penalty on fourth-and-3. “If there is a football god, he must love the Gamecocks.”
Said Summerville coach John McKissick: “They kept coming back, and they outplayed us. They deserved to win.”
The Green Wave started with great promise. Sawyer Bridges found William Luck open for a catch-and-run that covered 74 yards and gave the Green Wave a lead with 6:17 left in the first quarter. Ten seconds later, Kevin Dickinson intercepted a Barnes pass and returned it 35 yards for a score to push the lead to 14-0. But Sumter owned the rest of the first half, having possession of the ball for 19 minutes in the first half to Summerville’s five.
Sumter’s first scoring drive covered 80 yards in 15 plays and took 6:07 off the clock. On the final play of the first quarter, Kyjon Tyler caught a tipped pass in the endzone to cut the deficit to 14-6.
Sumter tied the score at 14 with a 13-play, 81-yard drive that took seven minutes off the clock. Tyler made a sliding catch of Barnes’ 35-yard pass to make it 14-12 with 2:27 left in the half. Barnes passed to Russell Jenkins for the two-point conversion to tie the game.
Sumter had a chance to take the lead at halftime, but Vince Watkins’ 39-yard field goal attempt was short.
Sumter dominated the first half, running 43 plays for 229 yards to Summerville’s 14 plays for 116 yards.
The Green Wave went to the run as their primary attack in the second half, and the move paid off. Summerville had excellent field position in the third quarter and scored on a five-play 37-yard drive. Sawyer Bridges found Johnston McCurry open down the sideline for a 20-yard touchdown pass with 2:08 left in the quarter.
Sophomore running back Chris Felder was the workhorse on Summerville’s next scoring drive. He scored on a 5-yard run with 41 seconds left in the third quarter to make it 27-14 in the Green Wave’s favor.
Sumter retaliated when Tyler caught his third TD pass in spectacular fashion. He caught the pass around the 15-yard line, broke a pair of tackles and spun into the endzone with a 37-yard TD with 9:33 left in the game.
That gave the Gamecocks momentum. They came back with the 95-yard drive to win the game.
“I feel bad for our players,” said McKissick, who will begin the 2014 season with 613 career victories. “We felt we should win, before the game. But they outplayed us.”
Sumter 6 8 0 15—28
Summerville 14 0 13 0—27
SV — William Luck 76 pass from Sawyer Bridges (David Kennedy kick)
SV — Kevin Dickinson 35 interception return (Kennedy kick)
ST — Kyjon Tyler 30 pass from James Barnes (Kick failed)
SV — Tyler 34 pass from Barnes (Russell Jenkins pass from Barnes)
SV — Johnston McCurry 20 pass from Bridges (Kennedy kick)
SV — Chris Felder 5 run (kick failed)
ST — Tyler 37 pass from Barnes (Vince Watkins kick)
ST — Xavion Burson 40 pass from Barnes (Watkins kick)