ROCK HILL — Itd been more than 161 games and 13 years since Northwestern last beat Byrnes.
The Trojans ended that unseemly barren streak Friday night with a memorable 42-35 overtime win against the Rebels at a crammed District Three Stadium.
Sophomore Julian Shockley caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Mason Rudolph on the Trojans second play of the extra period, before fellow 10th grader T.C. Caldwell intercepted a deflected pass on Byrnes first overtime play to seal the win. It was a nerve-jangling end to a beautiful ball game full of wild momentum shifts.
We just kept preaching, once it flips, once that momentum flips, we got to just start piggybacking off that momentum switching, said Northwestern coach Kyle Richardson.
The Trojans (3-0, ranked No. 2 in Class AAAA) led 28-14 at the break after a stunning 14-point burst in the span of 22 seconds during the second quarter. But Byrnes (2-1, ranked No. 1 in Class AAAA) has won eight of the last 11 state titles in South Carolina, and they responded as champions do, pinning 14 unanswered points on the board in the third quarter to tie the game.
We knew they wasnt gonna give up, said Trojans safety Corey Seargent. Thats Byrnes, man.
With the score knotted at 28, Byrnes drove the ball down the field and Rebels quarterback Shuler Bentley looked set to punch in a short touchdown run, only to fumble the ball out of bounds for a Trojans touchback. It was one of four crucial turnovers by the visitors.
Well, we had the opportunities, said Byrnes coach Bobby Bentley. Down inside the 1 and dont score and then we fumble inside the 3, and then we have an opportunity there in overtime to tie it and dont do the right route just an opportunity missed. We didnt do our job tonight.
After Bentley fumbled late in the third quarter, Northwestern was forced to punt, but the Trojans got the ball back when Shuler Bentleys pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage by Dante Seargent and fluttered into the waiting arms of his older brother Corey Seargent, who returned it to Northwesterns 40.
Bentley was masterful at times, picking the Trojans secondary to pieces, but when Northwestern got pass rush in his face, it paid off in the form of two deflected passes, both intercepted, and both game-changers.
We didnt get any pressure on him as in making sacks, but we did get close enough to him that we did get hands up and made some plays, deflected balls, said Richardson.
The Trojans offensive march threatened to peter out, but Rudolph, who threw for five scores, hoofed it for 14 yards on a third-and-11 to extend the drive, then hit Quadarius Fair with a 31-yard touchdown pass to put the hosts ahead 35-28 with 3:06 left in the game.
Byrnes responded with a steely 71-yard touchdown march, with Bentley making up for his earlier fumble with a 2-yard scoring run to even the score at 35. Each team got four downs from the 10 in overtime, but the Trojans only needed two plays, as Shockley found acres of open space for a basket-catch touchdown.
We actually put that play in this week, Richardson said. We saw it on film from a previous game that Byrnes had trouble defending. We put it in and hadnt really had a chance to run it. We knew they were going to try and double up on Dupree so once we faked it to him, paying attention to a 10th grader running scot-free is usually not a big deal.
There was still work to do. The Trojans blitzed on the Rebels first snap and Corey Seargent got his hand to Bentleys pass, tipping it off of its intended trajectory. Caldwell, making his first start in the purple and gold, caught the wayward ball and fell in the end zone. The home stand erupted.
It was a big team win tonight, said Richardson. Our last taste of overtime was a loss in the state championship. So for our guys to rebound and learn from that and be able to finish the deal in overtime, that was huge.
Northwestern 42, Byrnes 35 (OT)
BHS Shuler Bentley 18 run (Holden Owens kick)
NHS Dupree Hart 12 pass from Mason Rudolph (Sully Foy kick)
BHS Shaedon Meadors 17 pass from Bentley (Owens kick)
NHS Rudolph 6 run (Foy kick)
NHS Quadarius Fair 2 pass from Rudolph (Foy kick)
NHS Mustafia Love 4 pass from Rudolph (Foy kick)
BHS Meadors 56 pass from Bentley (Owens kick)
BHS Tavin Richardson 29 pass from Bentley (Owens kick)
NHS Fair 31 pass from Rudolph (Foy kick)
BHS Bentley 1 run (Owens kick)
NHS Julian Shockley 10 pass from Rudolph (Foy kick)
RUSHING BHS: Isaiah Hill 17-100; Shuler Bentley 6-50; Najee Bowens 5-41. NHS: Mason Rudolph 16-70; Tori Adams 8-49; Julian Shockley 2-11; Dupree Hart 2-1.
PASSING BHS: Bentley 40-29-2-2. NHS: Rudolph 38-25-0-5.
RECEIVING BHS: Tavin Richardson 13-155; Greg McHam 7-67; Hill 3-66; Braylin Collins 3-57; Shaedon Meadors 2-61; Bowens 1-1. NHS: Mustafia Love 9-45; Quadarius Fair 7-75; Dupree Hart 6-65; Shockley 3-13.
Bret McCormick • 329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T