Des Buchanan carried Rock Hill to an all-important second Region 4-5A win Friday night.
The senior running back ran the football 45 times for 222 yards and two touchdowns, and most importantly several key first downs on a final possession that stalled the Yellow Jackets’ comeback attempt in a 21-16 win.
Was it planned to give Buchanan a 1980s-like amount of carries?
“Well, yeah,” said Rock Hill coach Bubba Pittman. “We felt like we could come out here and run the football. We just climbed on the backs of our offensive line and handed big Des the football.”
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Fort Mill (4-4, 1-2 Region 4-5A) took a first quarter lead in odd fashion. Kyle Romenick’s punt landed inside the 10 and senior Bartow Keller slid in to keep the football out of the end zone. The Bearcats (3-6, 2-0) started at their 2-yard line and the Yellow Jackets brought defensive pressure up the middle on the next play, forcing McFadden into a rushed decision and a throw into the Rock Hill sideline. He was flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone, giving Fort Mill a 2-0 lead less than 5 minutes into the game.
Both teams’ passing attacks have seen better nights. They combined to complete just 8-of-27 passes with three interceptions.
Rock Hill continued its rediscovered devotion to running the ball. Des Buchanan put the hosts in front after a short punt gave the Bearcats the ball near midfield. Long runs by Buchanan and Narii Gaither culminated in Buchanan bashing into the end zone from 6 yards for a 7-2 Rock Hill lead with 3 minutes, 10 seconds left first half.
Fort Mill scored 14 points in five seconds to pull within five, 21-16, with 5 minutes, 27 seconds left in the game. The Yellow Jackets capped off their best offensive possession with a 5-yard TD pass to Bartow Keller, then recovered a perfectly placed Romenick pooch kick at the Rock Hill 25. J.T. Marr then fired a 25-yard scoring pass to Ryan Heriot down the right sideline to send waves of nerves through the home sideline.
But Rock Hill turned to Buchanan, who carried the team down the field, picking up multiple first downs and burying Fort Mill’s comeback bid.
Fort Mill and Rock Hill combined for eight turnovers, with only the Bearcats surviving the offensive struggles. Rock Hill threw four interceptions, finally abandoning the pass early in the second half, while Fort Mill hurt itself late muffing a punt that the Bearcats recovered and ultimately turned into a Logan McFadden touchdown run.
“Both defenses played good,” said Fort Mill coach Ed Susi. “J.T. was a little off tonight, but part of that was him, part of that was them. It happens.”
Buchanan had 78 yards and a touchdown at halftime. He carried the ball seven times on the first drive of the second half, a signal of intent toward the Fort Mill sideline.
“Our offensive line made a lot of holes and it was easy for me to get through,” said Buchanan.
”Our young offensive line has been growing up,” said Pittman. “This point of the season, they’re not young anymore.”
Rock Hill’s defensive line was just as good, producing a number of tackles-for-loss and holding the Yellow Jackets to just over a yard per carry. Molique Mitchell and Logan Hicks had their names called continually over the loudspeaker, while junior linebacker Gaither was a destructive defensive force, firing through the Yellow Jackets’ blocking line continually for tackles. He finished with five tackles-for-loss, unofficially.
Heriot rushed for 78 yards, caught a touchdown pass and also intercepted a second quarter pass.
Fort Mill hits the road to take on Dorman next week in non-region football, before its season finale against rival Nation Ford. Rock Hill, which has won two region games for the first time since 2013, tangles with Clover next Friday.
Rock Hill 21, Fort Mill 16
Fort Mill;2;0;0;14 - 16
Rock Hill;0;7;7;7 - 21
FMHS - safety, 7:28
RHHS - Des Buchanan 6 run (Ryan Hearn kick), 3:10
RHHS - Buchanan 11 run (Hearn kick), 0:10
RHHS - Logan McFadden 4 run (Hearn kick), 7:23
FMHS - Bartow Keller 5 pass from J.T. Marr (Kyle Romenick kick), 5:32
FMHS - Ryan Heriot 25 pass from Marr (Romenick kick), 5:27
RUSHING FMHS: Jackson Randall 2-6; Shayne Boyle 2-10; Ryan Heriot 16-78; Grant Stevens 4-(-5); J.T. Marr 4-(-33); Sebastian Lach 2-(-8). RHHS: Des Buchanan 45-222; Narii Gaither 9-35; Logan McFadden 9-22; Na’sylus Ford 1-2.
PASSING FMHS: Marr 11-30-2, 160 yards. RHHS: McFadden 6-17-4, 40 yards.
RECEIVING FMHS: Josh Cloud 1-7; Drew Hartman 1-37; Bartow Keller 2-13; Ben Kellam 1-44; Heriot 3-44; Stevens 2-13; Boyle 1-2. RHHS: Wan Crockett 1-9; Tay Anthony 3-19; Raphael Wright 1-6; Justain Patterson 1-6.
RECORDS Fort Mill 4-4, 1-2 Region 4-5A; Rock Hill 3-6, 2-0.