Nationally ranked Byrnes edges Northwestern Trojans 32-28

bmccormick@heraldonline.comSeptember 8, 2012 

Eleven-time state champions. Ranked fourth nationally by USA Today. State titles eight of the last 10 years. Byrnes High School football certainly brings pedigree.

Friday night, the Rebels brought guts, as they stuffed visiting Northwestern on a late game fourth down run to hold off the Trojans in a 32-28 thriller.

“We were just holding our breath,” said Byrnes coach Chris Miller, finally exhaling. “I had the people out there and I had to make the call, and I felt like he was gonna execute. We just came up with the play. Game of inches.”

Greg McHam caught seven passes for 129 yards and four touchdowns to lead Byrnes (3-0), who had to come from behind to knock off the high-flying Trojans (3-1). Much was made of Byrnes wideout Akia Booker, who caught 80 passes last season and scored six times in his team’s first two games this year. But in a game where the two sides combined for over 800 yards of offense, McHam stole the show at Nixon Field.

“People be all eyes on Booker,” said McHam afterward. “It just opens up the plays for me and the other receivers.”

Northwestern led 28-26 heading into the fourth quarter, and after blocking a 32-yard Holden Owen field goal try, the Trojans looked poised to enhance their lead. The Rebel defense stiffened though, forcing a Northwestern punt and turning that into six more points and the lead for good. On third and goal from the 7, Shuler Bentley hit McHam streaking across the back of the end zone for the decisive score with 6:46 remaining.

Byrnes forced a Trojan punt on the next drive, but the Trojans stopped the home team on a fourth and 1 that would have ended the game with two minutes left. Northwestern had one last shot, but quarterback Mason Rudolph was stuffed on a short fourth down dive to cinch the win for Byrnes, it’s third straight over the Trojans.

It was a crushing loss for Kyle Richardson’s squad, which also fumbled on the Rebels’ goal line in the first half.

Richardson told the team afterward “it’s a game of inches, and there on the fourth down if we get a couple of inches and a first down, who knows what could happen?”

The Trojans came into the contest on the heels of three lopsided wins, in which they averaged 53 points per game. They knew Byrnes wouldn’t be as easy, the whole reason behind putting the Rebels on the non-region chunk of the schedule.

“Never want to lose, but there were some bright moments that happened out there,” said Richardson. “We’ll learn from the negatives and get better for our region, which is why we scheduled it.”

Byrnes took a 6-0 lead less than three minutes into the battle. Bentley, who threw for 361 yards and five touchdowns, capped a nice Rebel drive with a 17-yard scoring pass to McHam. Trojan Marcus Marshall blocked the kick, the first of four unsuccessful point-afters for Byrnes and three blocked kicks for the visitors. Northwestern answered almost immediately, Rudolph hitting DuPree Hart on the sideline for a short gain, before the jitterbug sophomore broke loose and scored a 55-yard touchdown.

Northwestern then took the lead, converting O’Darryl Davis-Douglas’ interception into seven points. Rudolph scored on a keeper from a yard adrift to make it 14-6, after Sully Foy’s extra point. But that score just kicked the Byrnes beehive, and the Rebels reacted, scoring three times over the next 12 minutes. McHam’s third TD catch of the first half put the home side ahead 26-14 with 2:33 left in the half.

Sticking with the game’s whipsaw theme, Northwestern scored with 37 seconds left to make it 26-21 at the break. Rudolph found Hart for 17 yards, then with a four-man, sellout blitz in his face, dumped off to Rontavious McClure, who shook off tacklers to score from 38 yards.

Byrnes 32, Northwestern 28

Northwestern 14770 – 28
Byrnes 141206 – 32

Scoring summary

BHS -- Shuler Bentley 17 pass to Greg McHam (kick blocked)

NHS -- DuPree Hart 55 pass from Mason Rudolph (Sully Foy kick)

NHS -- Rudolph 1 run (Foy kick)

BHS -- McHam 28 pass from Bentley (Bentley 2 pass to Akia Booker)

BHS -- Booker 78 pass from Bentley (kick blocked)

BHS -- McHam 30 pass throw Bentley (Bentley run no good)

NHS -- Rontavious McClure 28 pass from Rudolph (Foy kick)

NHS -- Rudolph 2 run (Foy kick)

BHS -- McHam 7 pass from Bentley (2 point pass failed)

Team statistics

NHSBHS
First downs1720
Rushes/yards27-8822-65
Passing23-3428-41
Passing yards293361
Fumbles/lost3-21-1
Penalties/yards5-404-41

Individual statistics

RUSHING NHS: Mason Rudolph 18-51; LaThomas Long 8-31; Tori Adams 1- -1. BHS: Akia Booker 9-42; Shuler Bentley 6-14; Isaiah Hill 3-8; Evan Sudduth 4-1.

PASSING NHS: Rudolph 23-34-0-2. BHS: Bentley 28-41-1-5.

RECEIVING NHS: DuPree Hart 8-114; Rontavious McClure 8-112; Mustaffia Love 3-17; LaThomas Long 2-21. BHS: Greg McHam 7-129; Evan Sudduth 7-43; Akia Booker 5-121; Tavon Richardson 4-44.

RECORDS: NHS 3-1; BHS 3-0

VIDEO: Northwestern coach reaction after loss

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