After a slow start, the undefeated Fort Dorchester Patriots rolled pretty well, knocking off visiting Spring Valley, 28-14, in the first round of the Division I-AAAA state football playoffs.
Sophomore quarterback Dakereon Joyner tossed four touchdown passes — three to Diondre Champaigne — and the Patriots overcame an early 6-0 deficit to improve to 12-0 on the season.
Second-seeded Fort Dorchester will host 10th-seeded Boiling Springs, a 48-28 winner over Ashley Ridge, in round two next Friday night.
“They’re a good football team, I told everyone they were,” Fort Dorchester head coach Steve LaPrad said of Spring Valley. “We didn’t come out and explode like we usually do on offense but we really needed this type of game. I was worried about this game because of what they do offensively. Spring Valley has athletes across the board. Anyone could see that tonight. It’s a good win, they all are in the playoffs.”
Joyner overcame a slow start to finish with 176 yards passing while adding 63 yards rushing. Champaigne finished the night with five catches totaling 145 yards and senior running back Datron James added 88 yards rushing — 78 in the second half.
Fort Dorchester had four scoring drives of 80 yards or more, three coming in the second half.
“Spring Valley came out in a different front than we prepared for and we had to make some adjustments at halftime,” senior offensive lineman John Simpson said. “We weren’t panicking or anything. We just had to make some changes and come out and play our game.”
Spring Valley used a 14-play, 80 yard drive in the first quarter to take a 6-0 lead when quarterback Ryan Lee connected on a 12-yard pass to Cameron Jones. The Vikings then recovered an onside kick and continued to keep the Fort Dorchester offense off the field. Spring Valley ran 17 plays in the opening quarter to Fort Dorchester’s five.
Late in the second quarter, Spring Valley was called for a running into the punter penalty, allowing Fort Dorchester to extend its drive. The Patriots capitalized four plays later with Joyner’s 14-yard pass to Champaigne with 59 seconds left in the half, giving Fort Dorchester a 7-6 lead.
“That was definitely a big play, a big momentum changer,” Spring Valley head coach Robin Bacon said. “I thought we played really hard. Fort Dorchester is a big, strong, physical team and they just wore us down in the second half.”
The Patriots opened the third quarter with an 84-yard drive, culminating in Joyner’s six-yard pass to tight end Nick Dederick.
After the defense forced a punt, Joyner found Champaigne on an 84-yard bomb down the sideline, upping the lead to 21-6 with 3:34 left in the third quarter.
Joyner and Champaigne capped the night on a 12-yard pass connection with 2:19 to play. The Fort Dorchester first-team defense limited the Vikings to just 36 yards in the second half, but the Vikings did manage a late score when Lee tossed a 24-yard pass to R.J. Bacon with 46 seconds left in the game.
“The sign of a good football team is one that can make adjustments and execute the plan and we were able to do that in the second half,” LaPrad said. “I’m happy with the win. We get to keep playing. All of the teams now are good. We’re going to prepare, play fast and play hard and see what happens next week.”