Lancaster coach Bennie McMurray had just one win in four tries against Rock Hill coming into Friday's Region 3-AAAA opener at District Three Stadium.
The Bruins used four interceptions to give McMurray his second victory against the Bearcats, 17-7. Lancaster (4-3, 1-0) clinched the victory on the fourth pick when linebacker Andre Foulks returned the interception 30 yards with 2 minutes, 7 seconds remaining.
"It doesn't matter that it came here," McMurray said. "A win is a win, and this is a region win. That's the most important thing. We've been shooting ourselves in the foot all year. Tonight we were able to overcome that."
That wasn't the case for the Bearcats, who committed five turnovers.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Herald
"Penalties and turnovers," Rock Hill coach Joe Montgomery said. "We've had the same things happen the last three weeks. We were able to overcome those in the last two games."
Rock Hill (5-2, 0-1) opened the game with a picture-perfect drive. Quarterback Corey Wessinger pushed into Lancaster territory with a 33-yard scramble on the second play from scrimmage. He added an 11-yard run to take the ball into the red zone. Three plays later, Wessinger whistled a pass between two defenders to tight end Joe Perry for a 6-yard touchdown - the only points in the first half.
Each team committed two turnovers during the half, but neither could capitalize.
The Bruins opened the second half with their best drive. Quarterback Shaq Williams set up the drive with a 44-yard strike to Michael Cooper. A clipping penalty negated Williams' 14-yard touchdown run. Lancaster settled for Brandon Reese's 31-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 7-3.
"We challenged them at halftime," McMurray said. "We told them we had to make some plays."
Lancaster would wait until the fourth quarter to take the lead. Williams totaled 35 yards on a pair of quarterback keepers before giving way to backup Kaderrious Jackson, who followed with a 30-yard scramble to the Rock Hill 10. Jackson scored on a 1-yard sneak two plays later for a 10-7 Bruins lead with 8:24 left.
"It came down to a gut check," McMurray said. "Our linemen got off the ball and started moving, and our backs were able to find a running lane."
Rock Hill had three chances to tie, but Lancaster came up with an interception and three-and-out on the first two attempts. Foulks' interception return for a score came on the third drive.
"We had opportunities all night, opportunities in the red zone," Montgomery said. "But they played hard. You have to congratulate Lancaster."
The Bearcats will travel to Gaffney next Friday; Lancaster will face Northwestern in Region 3-AAAA play.
LANCASTER 17, ROCK HILL 7
RH - Joe Perry 8 pass from Corey Wessinger (Micah Burklin kick) L - Brandon Reese 31 FG L - Kaderrious Jackson 1 run (Reese kick) L - Andre Foulks 31 interception return (Reese kick)
RUSHING - Lancaster: Shaq Williams 21-85, Jackson 3-40, Roy Watts 9-7, Reese 4-7. Rock Hill: Savion Thoms 9-40, Wessinger 9-14, Kenterius Hinton 4-(-5), Jonathan Adams 2-3.
PASSING - Lancaster: Williams 9-12-1, 145 yards. Rock Hill: Wessinger 14-20-2, 112 yards, Hinton 2-6-2, 5 yards.
RECEIVING - Lancaster: Michael Cooper 2-56, Darius Cureton 2-38, Otis Alexander 3-33, Roy Watts 1-1, Kendrick Gladden 1-7. Rock Hill: Kirob Sims 3-30, Perry 4-24, Thoms 3-26, Trey Murdock 4-26, Jamel Jones 2-11.
W-L: Lancaster 4-3 (1-0); Rock Hill 5-2 (0-1)