Fort Mill played Friday like a team with its back against the wall - but didn't know it - coming up just short against Greenville in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs at historic Sirrine Stadium.
"We gave them an easy one," Fort Mill coach Ed Susi said of the 26-23 loss. "The kids did a great job of buying into the program and did a great job of having us in it at the end with a chance to win."
With 62 seconds left in the game, Fort Mill had one chance to shock the favored Red Raiders, but junior quarterback Preston Fry was intercepted for the second time in the game by Nykiea Bowens.
Coming into the game, Greenville's numbers spoke for themselves. Ranked fourth in the state in the 3A classification with a 9-1 record, the Red Raiders had only given up 80 points all season - 33 of those to Gaffney in their only loss. Greenville averaged 50 points a game and was giving up only a touchdown.
For the Jackets, getting to the playoffs and turning around a 1-10 season from last year were the goals the team set right from the opening kickoff of the 2010 season. Fort Mill ended the regular season with a respectable 5-5 record and made the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
Fort Mill won two of its last three games to earn its bid into the first-round match-up, but that meant nothing to the Red Raiders.
On the third play from scrimmage Fry was picked off by linebacker Will Sales, who returned the ball 44-yards for a touchdown.
"We can't do that with a team like this," Susi said.
Fry regrouped and led the Jackets on a good second drive, picking up a big first down on a 54-yard pass to senior Trent Butler. However, Fort Mill's drive stalled on downs.
Greenville wasted no time capitalizing, scoring in just three plays - going 81 yards in just 33 seconds. Sophomore quarterback Glenn Batson rushed for 21 yards and then two plays later hit senior receiver Derrick Williams for a 47-yard touchdown to put the Red Raiders up by two scores.
Greenville fumbled on their first position in the second quarter deep in Fort Mill territory giving the ball back to the Jackets. Fort Mill failed to capitalize on the mistake.
With poor starting position deep in the second quarter, Fort Mill failed to move the ball inside its own 10-yard line. Facing a third-and-10, Greenville's Sales forced Fry into the end zone for a sack and a Red Raider safety.
At the start of the third quarter, Greenville marched down the field eating up almost five minutes off the clock as they showed a mixed bag of plays. Fort Mill kept the Red Raiders out of the end zone after 14 plays; Greenville senior Michael Padgett booted a 36-yard field goal.
In the fourth quarter, Fort Mill kept punching and went 61 yards to score in four plays. Kryst scored his second touchdown of the game on a 2-yard run to pull the Jackets within five. Kryst then hit Klipa on a two-point conversion to make it a three-point game.
GREENVILLE 26, FORT MILL 23
G - Will Sales 44 interception return (Michael Padgett kick)
G - Derrick Williams 47 pass from Glenn Batson (Padgett kick)
FM - Trent Butler 4 pass from Preston Fry (Raszeja to Klipa 2-pt. conversion)
G - Safety
G - Williams 8 pass from Batson (Padgett kick)
G - Padgett 36 field goal
FM - Asa Kryst 12 pass from Fry (Rylan Wells kick)
FM - Kryst 2 run (Klipa pass from Kryst)
Rushing - Greenville: Nikeem Taylor 14-143, Glenn Batson 10-41, Malik Wright 9-25, Rooke Crouch 2-18. Fort Mill: Preston Fry 6-(-4), Asa Kryst 14-36, Nick Raszeja 7-6, Tony Godbolt 4-53.
Passing - Greenville: Glenn Batson 15-20-191-0, Rooke Crouch 0-1-0-1. Fort Mill: Preston Fry 17-30-264-2.
Receiving - Greenville: Roderick Williams 7-67, Joe Bowens 3-42, Derrick Williams 4-69, Devin Greer 1-13. Fort Mill: Tyler Klipa 3-79, Asa Kryst 6-53, Trent Butler 5-120, Nick Raszeja 1-4, Tony Godbolt 2-20.
Records: Greenville 10-1, Fort Mill 5-6