IRMO - As the final seconds ticked off the clock at Fox Field, Fort Dorchester quarterback Dakereon Joyner sat at the end of the Patriots' bench with his back to the field.
Joyner just couldn’t bear to see the final moments of his high school career come to a close.
Dutch Fork quarterback Ty Olenchuk threw for 222 yards and running back Ron Huff scored twice to lead the Silver Foxes past top-ranked Fort Dorchester 24-14 in the Class AAAAA Lower State finals before a crowd of more than 6,000 at Dutch Fork High School.
The Silver Foxes (13-1) will face Dorman, a 14-10 winner over Gaffney, in the Class AAAAA championship game on Dec. 2 at Williams-Brice Stadium.
For the second straight year, the Patriots (13-1) suffered the same fate on the same field, coming within a game of advancing to a state final.
For Joyner, who was 40-3 as a starting quarterback over the past three seasons, it was another heartbreaking loss on the same field where his junior season ended.
All three losses came at the hands of Dutch Fork.
“It’s over, it’s done, I can’t go back and replay it no matter how much I want to,” Joyner said. “Last year when we lost up here, I said we’d be back and we came back, but we didn’t get the job done. It’s crazy that it ended here, but it’s over, and now we’ve got to move on.”
Joyner, who accounted for more than 10,000 yards of total offense during his career and led the Patriots to a state title his sophomore season, certainly did his part. The 6-2 senior completed 11 of 19 passes for 193 yards and a TD while rushing for 100 yards on 24 attempts.
“I hate it for Dakereon,” said Fort Dorchester coach Steve LaPrad. “He’s had such a great career, and to have it end like this, is really disappointing. He deserves better. He deserved to go out a state champion again.”
As good as Joyner was, the Dutch Fork defense might have been even better. The Silver Foxes pressured Joyner throughout the game and limited his big-play capabilities using a “spy” defender to contain any long runs.
“I thought we were prepared, but they came out in something totally different than what we saw on film all week,” Joyner said. “They used different fronts from what we studied and came off the edge and made me step up in the pocket. Then if I tried to run, they had a guy spying on me the whole time.”
It didn’t help that two Fort Dorchester touchdowns were called back due to penalties - one on a holding call during kickoff return and another holding penalty on a Joyner TD pass at the end of the second quarter. The Patriots were called for eight penalties for 100 yards.
“There was a little home-cooking going on,” LaPrad said. “We had two touchdown called back. We got penalized over and over again. That affected us big-time. I guess coming up here did make a big difference. We didn’t play like we normally do. We have a great football team, and I’m disappointed and I hate to lose this way.”
The Silver Foxes played inspired football from the opening kickoff, hoping to avenge a 41-25 loss to Patriots back in September.
Containing Joyner was their top priority. Dutch Fork sacked Joyner five times.
“I don’t think we were going to be denied,” Dutch Fork coach Tom Knotts said. “We refused to lose and that is all we talked about all week. I am real proud of our resolve.”
Dutch Fork took the opening kickoff and marched 78 yards in 14 plays to take a 7-0 lead on Hoff’s TD with 5:45 left in the first quarter.
Fort Dorchester’s Dazio Casto appeared to return the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a TD, but a holding penalty nullified the score.
Olenchuk found tight end Colin Donelson over the middle for a 41-yard scoring play midway through the second quarter to push the Silver Foxes' lead to 14-0 with 7:15 left before halftime.
The Patriots had a chance to cut into the lead just before halftime. Joyner led the Patriots down the field and scrambled out of a sure sack and found Raquan Simmons in the back of the end zone for a score. But another holding penalty took points off the board with less than a minute to play.
Joyner scrambled to the Dutch Fork 3 as time ran out in the half.
After a Dutch Fork field goal, Joyner found Chaz Jones on a 69-yard bomb that got the Patriots right back in the game, 17-7, with 6:28 left in the third quarter.
But the Silver Foxes answered by going 71 yards in five plays as Hoff scored again to push the Dutch Fork advantage to 24-7 with 3:56 to play in the third quarter.
Joyner found Justin Williams in the end zone for what appeared to be another TD, but the wide receiver dropped the ball.
“That’s three touchdowns right there,” Joyner said. “It just wasn’t our night.”
Drew Parker added a late TD for Fort Dorchester, but Dutch Fork recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock to end the game and Joyner’s high school.
“I’ve been here for four years and it’s over,” Joyner said. “I can’t believe it’s over. I’m definitely proud of the season and my career. I’m sorry that it’s all over and I wish I could go back, but I can’t. I have to move on to what’s next in my life.”