Patrick Henry Academy brought a burly football team, intent on controlling possession, to Todd Kirk Field on Friday night, but the Patriots couldn’t keep the football long enough.
Five times Laurens Academy stopped Patrick Henry on downs, and big plays, both offensively and defensively, sealed the Patriots’ fate, 30-14, as the Crusaders advanced to the second round of the SCISA 8-man playoffs.
Closing deals were not a problem for Clarence Bertoli and Thomas Lowry. Bertoli snagged 11 of Lowry’s passes for 131 yards. Three of them went for touchdowns of 19, 55 and 51 yards. Lowry rushed for 122 yards, with one of his 13 carries producing an 11-yard rushing touchdown.
The offensive numbers were similar. Laurens Academy (8-3) had 351 yards of offense, Patrick Henry (7-4) 343, but Patrick Henry ran out of downs after long drives at the beginning of both halves, and they set the tone for each.
Four Patriots – quarterback Zack Mathis, John Gardner Griner, Peyton Ayer and Austin Cone – rushed for at least 49 yards.
It was almost incalculable how many yards Mathis ran as many of his roundabout adventures began with giving up an astonishing amount of ground to the hard-rushing Crusaders. He completed 11 of his 17 passes for 158 yards in addition to his 110 yards on the ground, but for every long gain by him and his mates, there was an LA defender there to put a stop to the foolishment on fourth down.
Brett Young, Caio Rita and Will Jones all put a harsh end to Henry drives.
For all the prolific shovel passes from Lowry to Bertoli, the heroic defenders were every bit as responsible for the triumph and the fact that the Crusaders will venture to Holly Hill Academy (11-0) next Friday seeking to avenge an 18-12 setback that began the season.
“We just had to dig real deep,” Lowry said. “I had to play a lot of defense tonight that I don’t often have to play. This was a great win for everybody. Nobody will ever understand how hard we worked over the summer, over the season, to know what we could do. The rough start we had, that only increased our determination.”
The Crusaders, once 0-2, have won eight of the nine games since.
“Big plays? That’s who we are,” said LA head coach Kirk on the field named for him. “We were good inside the 20s. There’s really no secret here. We’ve done that all season, and in big games.”
Meanwhile, Holly Hill was dispatching W.W. King by a score of 58-0.
LA – Bertoli 19 pass from Lowry (pass failed) 2:41 1st
PH – Zack Mathis 10 run (Tillman Padgett pass from Mathis) 10:35 2nd
LA – Bertoli 55 pass from Lowry (Lowry run) 10:19 2nd
PH – John Gardner Griner 26 run (pass failed) 3:57 2nd.
LA – Lowry 11 run (Bertoli pass from Lowry) 1:52 2nd
LA – Bertoli 51 pass from Lowry (Lowry run) 11:11 4th
Rushing: Patrick Henry (46-185), Mathis 15-110, Griner 13-72, Austin Cone 9-49, Peyton .Ayer 9-54; Laurens Academy, Lowry 13-122.
Passing: Patrick Henry, Mathis 11-17-0 158; Laurens Academy, Lowry 16-21-1 229.
Receiving: Patrick Henry, Griner 4-42, Ayer 2-51; Laurens Academy, Bertoli 11-131, Caio Rita 3-23, Reles Littleton 1-59, Cal Robertson 1-16.