York Comprehensive High School’s Cougars will travel to Greenwood Friday to battle the Greenwood Eagles.
At stake is the Class AAAA Division 11 Upper State Championship. The winner will advance to the noon Dec. 6 state title game at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia.
It’s the first upper state championship appearance for York since 1986, the year the Cougars won AAA state title defeating Strom Thurmond 10-0.
Though he was disappointed in the miscues in the 33-28 win against River Bluff last week, Cougar head coach Bobby Carroll said he was elated with the outcome.
“We’ll have to correct some things but it’s a great win for our kids,” Carroll said. “Anytime your team is playing on Thanksgiving weekend, you know you’re having a great season.
The Cougars are 11-2 for the season.
Greenwood is one of the hottest teams in the state, riding an eight-game winning streak and a defense that has held playoff opponents scoreless. The Eagles defeated Westwood 16-0 last week.
“We know Greenwood is an improved football team from last year,” said Carroll. “They have two great linebackers we chose for the North-South All-Star game. They also have an outstanding free safety on the defensive side of the ball.”
The Cougars rallied from behind to defeat a River Bluff team that sent No. 1 seed Goose Creek packing.
The Cougar defense held River Bluff to a touchdown in the second half, and Carroll said he’s looking for more.
“We need to play defense like that the whole game,” said Carroll.
Powered by a strong offensive line, River Bluff ran the ball in the first half, building a double-digit lead.
The Gators went on a feeding frenzy in the second quarter, scoring on a quarterback dive by Brandon Tillmon and a well-designed 54-yard pass from Tillmon to Kyle Graham.
Trailing 21-6 at the end of the first half, quarterback Deshaw Andrews scored from 10 yards out.
The Cougars opened the second half with a 69-yard drive, culminating with Andrews’ 22-yard touchdown toss to sophomore receiver Shandon Cobb.
After the Cougar defense forced the Gators to punt, Andrews heaved the ball to Daurice Simpson, who raced down the sideline for the TD.
The 71-yard scoring toss pushed the Cougars ahead, 26-21.
River Bluff had to punt again on its next possession, and Simpson electrified the crowd with a 75-yard punt return, giving the Cougars a 33-21 lead.
“They didn’t mean to punt the ball to me,” Simpson said after the game. “They had been punting away from me all night. The ball bounced my way and I found an opening.”
River Bluff refused to buckle, marching down the field and scoring on a 1-yard sneak by Davon Johnson.
The Gators halted a Cougar drive by recovering a fumble with 2:39 left in the game and began another drive. Aided by a pass interference call, River Bluff had a fourth down play with the opportunity to seize the lead.
With Cougar defenders closing in, Tillmon slipped to the turf and sending the YCHS team to the upper state title game.
“We played harder than they did, especially with the game on the line,” Andrews said after the game.
Junior defensive end Deivonna Chalk agreed. “We stepped up when we had to,” Chalk said.
With the Cougars about to enter the big stage, Carroll knows what’s at stake. “Our kids are excited,” he said. “We’ll prepare hard and see if we can win a state championship the next two weeks.”