ROCK HILL — Veteran coach Bennie McMurray said he couldn't remember the last time Lancaster beat Rock Hill and Northwestern in the same season.
He didn't much care, either.
"Doesn't matter," McMurray said with a shake of his head after his Bruins completed the city sweep with a 23-21 win over the Trojans Thursday night at District Three Stadium.
"What matters is we did it now," he continued. "Half these kids probably weren't even born yet the last time this happened. But it doesn't matter.
"You look at our last two games, really, our last four. Our kids have bled; they've left everything humanly possible of their soul out there on the field."
The Bruins improved to 5-3, and 2-0 in Region 3-AAAA. The times might not always be this good -- "We're climbing the Himalayas next week," McMurray said of their trip to Gaffney -- but for the moment, they were content to enjoy it.
Lancaster senior quarterback Shaq Williams came back from an ankle injury in the third quarter to lead the comeback, with his 1-yard scoring plunge with two minutes, 21 seconds left the difference. Not bad for someone who wasn't sure he could come back at all after getting caught in a pile of Northwestern defenders.
"I'm good, my leg's sore, but I'm good," Williams said with a broad grin. "When it first happened, I felt my leg, but my ankle was off in a different direction. But they got me over to the sidelines and I realized I was OK.
"I wasn't coming out of this one."
The game was back and forth all night, and the Trojans (5-3, 1-1) packed up and left quickly, frustrated with an end-game scenario that appeared to have gone their way. But a desperation fourth-down play was ruled a yard short, leaving coach Kyle Richardson pitching a fit and earning a penalty, and allowing Williams to kneel out the clock.
The Trojans were without starting quarterback Mason Rudolph -- who suffered an apparent concussion last week against Spartanburg -- and they struggled to find any consistency with the ball. They threw 26 times for a meager 94 yards, and actually were most productive when they ran. Freshman running back Dupree Hart ran 23 times for 123 yards, and added 44 more yards on seven catches to lead the way.
But Lancaster had Williams, and that was enough, along with a break from the breeze.
Williams ran for 97 yards and threw for 128 in the first half, helping the Bruins keep the chains moving and clock rolling. They controlled the ball for 17 minutes and two seconds of the first half (24:00 total), and outgained the Trojans 223-80.
It could have been a bit more of a lead, but their opening drive of 79 yards was for nothing when kicker Brandon Reese failed to strike his field goal attempt squarely, with the ball never making it past his own line. But after a quick three-and-out by Northwestern, the Bruins had a shorter field with which to work, and took advantage. After a 10-yard run got them to the Trojans' 7, Williams found Reese for a redemptive touchdown and an early lead.
With Hart doing much of the work inside, the Trojans answered in the second quarter with a 66-yard drive, backup quarterback Matthew Turney running it in himself from a yard out to tie the game.
But that's when Reese was able to do it with his leg again, sneaking across a 29-yard field goal for the narrow margin at the break. His field goal actually hit the crossbar and bounced across, but counted the same as if he sailed it across Constitution Boulevard
The second half was a back-and-forth affair. As soon as Hart gave Northwestern the lead with a 6-yard touchdown run, Lancaster's KeAnthony Foster answered with an 88-yard kickoff return touchdown.
That's when things got weird. A long - but not smooth - Northwestern drive appeared fruitless when Nick Dakes missed a 20-yard field goal. But a penalty on Lancaster gave Northwestern a first down, sent McMurray into orbit and set the stage for Turney's 1-yard touchdown run for a 21-17 lead.
That's when Williams came back in the game, and calmly led the Bruins downfield on yet another clock-chewing drive. After hitting several crisp passes, he gained the final yard himself, but the extra point was blocked, leaving the Trojans within two.
Turney, whose previous long completion was a 12-yarder, hit Hart for a 36-yard gain to get into Lancaster territory late. But his fourth-down pass to Hart was ruled a yard short of a conversion, allowing the Bruins to celebrate once more.
LANCASTER 23, NORTHWESTERN 21
Lanc -- Shaq Williams 7 pass to Brandon Reese (Brandon Reese kick).
NW -- Matthew Turney 1 run (Nick Dakes kick).
Lanc -- Brandon Reese 29 field goal.
NW -- Dupree Hart 6 run (Nick Dakes kick).
Lanc -- KeAnthony Foster 88 kickoff return (Brandon Reese kick).
NW -- Matthew Turney 1 run (Nick Dakes kick).
Lanc -- Shaq Williams 1 run (kick blocked).
RUSHING -- Northwestern: Dupree Hart 23-123, Marcus Marshall 1-5, Matthew Turney 12-23. Lancaster: Roy Watts 3-8, Shaq Williams 27-135, Kaderrious Jackson 3-3, Terrell White 1-(-3).
PASSING -- Northwestern: Matthew Turney 16-23-0 94 yards. Lancaster: Shaq Williams 16-25-0 196 yards, Kaderrious Jackson 0-1-0 0 yards..
RECEIVING -- Northwestern: Dupree Hart 7-44, B.J. Boyd 5-26, Rontavius McClure 2-11, Marcus Marshall 1-2, Jared Balasco 1-11. Lancaster: Michael Cooper 4-52, Kaderrious Jackson 3-25, Roy Watts 2-21, C.D. Pelham 5-81, Brandon Reese 2-17.
RECORDS: Northwestern: 5-3, 1-1. Lancaster: 5-3, 2-0.
Darin Gantt 803-326-4312