AIKEN -- Due to a scheduling quirk in the South Carolina High School League playoff pairings, an 8-3 South Pointe team traveled to Aiken's Hagood Stadium to face a team with a losing record in the playoffs' opening round. It mattered little to the Stallions, as they rolled to a 48-14 win over the Green Hornets.
The location of the contest could have been played anywhere on the planet, as the Stallions dictated the game's flow all evening and were clearly the better football team.
The game made history for South Pointe (9-3), as it picked up its first win in its playoff debut. The Stallions are in just their second season of varsity football, and snapped a two-game losing streak with the win in the opening-round triumph over Aiken.
Aiken (5-7) entered the game under unusual circumstances. Its head coach, Carey Johnson, was back with the team just two days after his father passed away, an assistant coach was in a minor traffic accident on the way to the game, and, less significantly, the Green Hornets are coming off of their first loss in 14 years to their archrival, South Aiken, a week ago.
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Regardless the situation, the Stallions completely dominated the game from the opening coin toss. Aiken forced South Pointe to punt on the first possession of the game, partly due to a bad snap over quarterback Stephon Gilmore's head. The blunder was one of very few for the Stallions.
South Pointe's defense took over from there, and forced Aiken to a quick three downs and a punt on the Hornets' opening drive. The Stallion defense, paced by Dontae Aldridge, held the Green Hornets to just 30 total yards in the opening half, and zero first downs.
Meanwhile, the Stallion offense clicked about as well as it has all season. In typical Gilmore fashion, he controlled the game with both his feet and his arm. When Gilmore was not handing the ball off to Devin Wherry, he chucked the ball to Charles Holmes, who had an outstanding night, finishing with seven catches for 154 yards and a touchdown.
After the punt on its opening drive, South Pointe scored touchdowns on its next four offensive possessions.
Gilmore lit up the scoreboard with a shifty 38-yard touchdown score late in the first period and Wherry pounded the ball in for the Stallions' second score.
Coach Bobby Carroll reached deep into his playbook, as little used receiver Sammie Blackmon took an option pitch from Gilmore and scampered 15 yards for another easy score that put South Point up 20-0.
The defense held again and Aiken punter Desmond Reardon pinned the Stallions deep in their own territory. The Green Hornets looked to gain momentum before the half, forcing South Pointe into a third-and-long, when Gilmore found Holmes for a little slip screen.
Holmes did the rest, breaking two tackles then turning on his jets as he streaked past two Hornet defenders and outran two others en route to an incredible 80-touchdown reception, giving the Stallions a 27-0 lead at intermission.
The Hornets attempted a comeback, as Jeremy Robinson returned the second-half kickoff 85 yards for Aiken's first points of the game.
South Pointe fumbled the ensuing kickoff, setting up the Hornets in great field position at the Stallions' 31-yard line. Once again, the Stallion defense withstood the challenge, as Mark McCullough broke up a fourth-down halfback pass in the end zone.
Gilmore essentially put the game on ice two plays later with a quarterback draw up the middle that turned into a 74-yard score.
Both teams added a couple of meaningless scores, but the story of the night was the outstanding defensive play by the Stallions and yet another marvelous performance by Gilmore.
Pete Roseboro, Aldrige, and Harold White commanded the defense and held Aiken to just five first downs and 126 yards of total offense. White added a blocked punt and recovered for a touchdown with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth period, creating the final 48-14 score.
South Pointe travels next week to face top seeded Berkeley, 37-6 winners over West Florence in the opening round. Berkeley claims one of the top running backs in the state in Andre Ellington.
"I am just so proud of these kids," Carroll said. "We made history tonight. All of our assistant coaches worked hard and the kids played their guts out to get the win. We'll swap videos with Berkeley tomorrow morning and start working on a game plan to stop their great running back.
"To be in just our second season, I could not be more pleased with our kids, our coaching staff, and our fans. Tonight was a great win for our program. We want to enjoy it but know we are only guaranteed one more game."
SOUTH POINTE 48 AIKEN 14
Aiken 0 0 7 7 -- 14
South Pointe 6 21 14 7 -- 48
SP -- Stephon Gilmore 38 run (kick failed)
SP --Devin Wherry 1 run (pass failed)
SP -- Sammie Gladden 15 run (Bobby Hemphill run)
SP -- Charles Holmes 80 pass from Gilmore (Graham Tuttle kick)
A -- Jeremy Robinson 85 kickoff return (Desmond Reardon kick)
SP -- Gilmore 74 run (Tuttle kick)
SP -- Gladden 29 pass from Gilmore (Tuttle kick)
A -- Quinton Woods 35 pass from Marcel Harley (Reardon kick)
SP -- Harold White recovered blocked punt (Tuttle kick)
First downs 5 19
Rushes-yds. 36-86 31-283
Passing 2-7-1 9-17-1
Passing yds. 40 192
Fumbles lost 3-2 2-1
Penalties 1-8 3-20
RUSHING -- Aiken: Cortez Abney 15-32, Robinson 7-29, Aubrey Johnson 5-7, Harley 5-13, Woods 4-5. South Pointe: Wherry 13-91, Gilmore 9-157, Raphael Ratliff 6-13, Bobby Hemphill 2-7, Gladden 1-15.
PASSING -- Aiken: Harley 2-6-1-40, Robinson 0-1-0-0. South Pointe: Gilmore 9-15-1-192, Corey Rawls 0-2-0-0.
RECEIVING -- Aiken: Woods 2-40. South Pointe: Holmes 7-154, Breon Jackson 1-9, Gladden 1-29.
RECORDS -- South Pointe 9-3. Aiken 5-7.