HOLLY HILL – In the penultimate round of the SCISA 8-man football playoffs, Laurens Academy went down swinging, though Holly Hill Academy ultimately won, 50-36, Friday night.
The Raiders’ Zach Pelloni sprinted 85 yards with the opening kickoff, and Marion Breland scored again late in the first quarter. Both conversions put Holly Hill up, 16-0.
Laurens Academy’s senior quarterback, Thomas Lowry, threw 2nd-quarter touchdown passes of 53 yards to Diamonte Grant and 31 to Cal Robertson, tying the score thanks his own conversion runs. The second of four Breland touchdown runs put the Raiders up, 24-16, at half.
“It was a hardfought ballgame,” LA head coach Todd Kirk said. “I had some players who played their guts out. They did a good job of hemming Thomas (Lowry) up. … I thought we made ’em work, though, to go the long distances.”
Holly Hill Academy (11-0) limited Lowry to 33 rushing yards, and the Crusaders’ next most frequent offensive standby – the shovel pass from Lowry to Clarence Bertoli – netted just 46 yards.
Lowry had to fling it down the field in order to bring LA back, and the Crusaders outscored HHA 30-8 from the end of the first quarter to the 8:54 mark of the third. That made it 30-24, LA.
It went downhill from there. The Raiders wore the Crusaders down. Officials had little to say about Lowry being hammered a bit late on several occasions. It wasn’t called until too late.
Holly Hill used up too much time with the football to keep Lowry & Company clicking, just as was the case in the previous meeting between the two, a season-opening, 18-12 win.
It took a bruising bunch to dispatch the feisty Crusaders. Holly Hill rushed for 321 yards. The Raiders passed for just 17 (save a 2-point conversion pass that was completed). Lowry threw for 228 yards, finding 17 of his 26 targets. He threw for three scores and ran for two. Diamonte Grant gained 90 yards with his two receptions.
“We had a bend, don’t break, philosophy all year,” HHA head coach Michael Nelson said. “We knew if we could keep the ball in front of us, and make them sustain long drives, we’d be OK. They did hit some long passes on us.
“We contained Lowry, and he’s a heck of a player.”
Laurens Academy (8-4) committed far too many mistakes. The kicker, fittingly on a kick, was when no one could get to the Raiders’ blooper kickoff with 5:24 remaining and Holly Hill up 44-30. Immediately, Pelloni completed the only pass he tried for a touchdown that provided HHA with a 50-30 lead.
Pelloni scored touchdowns on a kickoff return, a rush and a pass.
“Turnovers hurt us,” said Kirk. “When we got two touchdowns behind (early in the fourth quarter), I still feel good about us. They pulled away by three scores, and we just couldn’t come back from that.
“They ran well. They hit well. They were physical. There aren’t any secrets in these games.”
HH – Zach Pelloni 85 kickoff return (Pelloni run) 11:44 1st 8-0
HH – Marion Breland 16 run (Harley Watkins pass from Tyler Wright) 1:10 1st 16-0
LA – Diamonte Grant 53 pass from Thomas Lowry (Lowry run) 11:14 2nd 16-8
LA – Cal Robertson 31 pass from Lowry (Lowry run) 4:18 2nd 16-16
HH – Breland 1 run (Breland run) 3:09 2nd 24-16
LA – Robertson 51 pass from Lowry (pass failed) 11:08 3rd 24-22
LA – Lowry 5 run (Robertson pass from Lowry) 8:54 3rd 24-30
HH – Breland 43 run (pass failed) 2:27 3rd 30-30
HH – Pelloni 1 run (Crawford Thomas run) 10:22 3rd 30-38
HH – Breland 20 run (pass failed) 5:30 4th 30-44
HH – Joseph Huffham 17 pass from Pelloni (run failed) 5:17 4th 30-50
LA – Lowry 2 run (pass failed) 0:52.7 4th 36-50
Rushing: LA, Lowry 12-33; HHA (37-321): Breland 10-166, Pelloni 16-78, Tyler Wright 17-37, Crawford Thomas 3-20.
Passing: LA, Lowry 17-26-0 228; HHA (1-4-0 17), Pelloni 1-1-0 17, Wright 0-3-0 0.
Receiving: LA, Clarence Bertoli 9-46, Robertson 4-90, Grant 2-90, Jonas Smith 2-6.