What was sweet at Greenville’s Sirrine Stadium was bitter on Friday night at K.C. Hanna Stadium.
Laurens (2-2) completed the task at hand with cool efficiency, defeating Aiken (0-2) 34-6, but as odd as it may have seemed, the Raiders were eliminated from playoff contention while winning their first game outside Region 2-4A. Greenwood knocked off Greenville, 50-27, and since Laurens lost to those schools in the season’s first two games, in this coronavirus-shortened season, the Raiders cannot earn one of the region’s two allotted playoff slots.
“The first couple games got us,” said head coach Daryl Smith. “We’d love to have three in the playoffs, but that’s just the rule. It could work out, though. We’ve got a couple, three more games. If [Clinton doesn’t] make the playoffs, now we’re out and we can play our county rivals.”
Near the top of Smith’s wish list was a quick start, and the Raiders led 21-0 before the game was eight minutes old.
“One thing the kids have really responded to well was starting fast,” he said. “We’ve really emphasized that a lot in practice. That was good to see.”
A pair of sophomores, quarterback James Rawl and wide receiver Cayson Elledge, seem to pitch and catch better every week. They hooked up three times, twice for touchdowns, and Elledge scored on strikes of 48 and 37 yards. Jeremiah Fuller and Zy Todd combined for 124 of the Raiders’ 165 rushing yards and three touchdowns, two by Todd.
“We still had a few errors, but overall it was much more consistent with the drives,” Smith said. “On defense, we had a couple more fourth-down stops.
“It was good to see our guys come out and play a complete game tonight.”
The Green Hornets scored only once, but it was gaudy. Rashad McMillian shredded the Raider defense for a 67-yard ramble late in the first quarter.
“We knew they had some guys who, if they got past our linebackers, would be able to take it all the way,” Smith said. “I was really proud of our offense tonight because we had some key injuries. We had some injuries in the offensive line, and the guys behind them stepped right up and did a good job.”
While Greenwood and Greenwood advance to the playoffs, the likelihood is that on Nov. 13, Laurens will visit Clinton for the county championship. The S.C. High School League has approved the playing of an additional game, given that the playoffs have been limited. Clinton is still a playoff longshot with remaining games in Region 3-3A against Woodruff and Union County.
“That would be a special game, one last game, something that means something,” Smith said. “We’ll be fired up. Clinton will be, too. They’re getting better each week, too.”
Next up for the Raiders is a visit to Greer.
L – Jayden McGowan 2 run (Brian Diaz kick) 10:08 1st
L – Cayson Elledge 48 pass from James Rawl (Diaz kick) 7:48 1st
L – McGowan 3 run (Diaz kick) 4:38 1st
A – Rashad McMillian 67 run (run failed) 3:02 1st
L – Elledge 37 pass from Rawl (Diaz kick) 7:54 3rd
L – Zy Todd 11 run (kick blocked) 8:43 4th
Rushing: Aiken (31-91), McMillian 3-64, Lawton 5-16, Guinyard 3-13; Laurens (35-165), Jeremiah Fuller 17-66, Todd 10-58, Rawl 2-29.
Passing: Aiken (5-12-1 10), Hannah 3-10-1 12, Lawton 2-2-0 2; Laurens (9-21-1 188), Rawl 9-20-1 188.
Receiving: Aiken (5-10), Terry 2-(-2); Laurens (9-188), Elledge 3-100, McGowan 2-46, Todd 1-21, Fuller 1-12.