Holly Hill Academy arrived at Todd Kirk Field with a power rushing attack that controlled the clock. Laurens Academy was bold and adventurous, which was enough to hang in with the Raiders but not defeat them Friday night.
Sometimes adventure beats power, but it’s not the way to bet, and Holly Hill turned back the Crusaders, 18-12, in the S.C. Independent School 8-man football opener for both teams.
“That’s a heck of a ball team right there,” HHA coach Michael Nelson said of his team’s opponent. “I think it was a chess match of two good teams.”
Armed with a human video game of a quarterback, Thomas Lowry, LA (0-1) scrapped it out from start to finish, but to win, the Crusaders needed a few breaks.
They got none.
One drive ended when Lowry’s second-down pass from the 15-yard line was intercepted by Holly Hill’s Harley Watkins. With only 5:32 remaining the game, quarterback Marion Breland scored on an 8-yard run after twice in the drive’s five plays, Raider runners had fumbled without LA being to secure the recovery.
This, in fact, was all in the fourth quarter.
“We made some mistakes that really cost us,” coach Todd Kirk of the Crusaders. “In the second half, we moved the ball and made them adjust. That interception stopped us, and we got a little tired, and they ran the ball at us.”
Lowry, who completed 10 of 22 passes for 94 yards, threw a 33-yard score to Caio Rita in the final two minutes to bring the Crusaders to within six points, but Holly Hill (1-0) recovered the onsides kick and ran out the clock.
The Crusaders’ senior quarterback also rushed for 182 yards on 19 carries and two scores, and his first scoring toss to Rita, in the second quarter, was the 100th tally of his career. The majority of his yards came on simple quarterback draws, scrambling for yards against a Raider defense that seemed obsessed with covering LA’s receivers while the Crusader signal-caller was sneaking behind enemy lines.
“Their quarterback is shifty,” Nelson said. “We’ve got to break down and learn how to tackle better.”
“Thomas (Lowry) threw the interception, but he played like a warrior all night,” Kirk said. “He threw the ball well, but we had some drops.”
Almost everyone ran successfully for Holly Hill Academy, which averaged 10.2 yards for each of its 33 rushes, totaling 337 yards. The quarterback, Breland, completed only two of seven pass attempts but rushed for 129 yards in 10 carries.
Zach Peloni, the Raiders’ best player, was only able to play three plays in the second half after rushing for 35 yards early. Peloni was also the anchor of the defense at linebacker.
“They beat us,” Kirk said. “They were the best team. Before the game I would’ve said we’d beat them. It didn’t happen. Life’s not perfect.”