Friday night may not have been the perfect bounce-back effort for Fort Mill after a season-opening loss to Spring Valley, but it was awfully close.
The Yellow Jackets got three touchdown throws from junior quarterback J.T. Marr, two touchdown runs by Jackson Randall, in securing an authoritative 34-7 victory over West Florence at Bob Jones Stadium Friday night.
“Last week, we didn’t play very well. We played a very good team, and I think we were a little embarrassed last week by the way we played,” said Fort Mill coach Ed Susi. “They knew they needed to come out and jump on these guys early for us to be successful, and they did.”
The Yellow Jacket passing attack enjoyed considerable success, with Marr frequently finding receivers behind Knight defenders. Fort Mill (1-1) got 242 yards passing on a nearly perfect night through the air. Susi and Marr both acknowledged the aerial difference.
“You try to do what the defense gives you,” Susi said. “Part of the game plan was to try to go short, then get them to bite up and try to go deep. He (Marr) did a good job with that.”
“(There was) a lot more passing (in practice this week), for sure,” Marr said. “Getting the timing down, and getting the connection going.”
As great as the offense was for Fort Mill, the Yellow Jackets’ defense also turned in a stellar effort. West Florence (0-2) tallied just shy of 200 yards of total offense. “It was great, because their quarterback (Cooper Wallace) is very mobile,” Susi said. “He runs around a lot. The defense did a good job containing him.”
One of the four Fort Mill fumbles nearly changed the complexion of the game early in the first quarter. West Florence pounced on a loose ball at the Fort Mill 7, seeming poised to march those seven yards to collect the seven game-tying points. The Yellow Jacket defense stiffened, collecting an 8-yard loss on third-and-goal from the 6. Fort Mill then blocked a 33-yard West Florence field goal attempt, recovering the ball on the Knights’ 45.
The momentum changed in an instant, as Marr connected with Bartow Keller on a 45-yard score on the following play, stretching the home side’s lead to 14.
“To us, it (was) a sudden change,” Susi said. “The kids wanted to go strike right away and see if we could hit it deep. We wanted to see if we could hit one (quickly) and get the momentum going.”
The Yellow Jackets’ defense turned in a key effort to stave off potential damage from turnovers. Fort Mill forced three punts on West Florence’s five first-half possessions, with a blocked field goal and turnover on downs keeping the Knights off the scoreboard. The lone West Florence scoring effort came with just over three minutes remaining in the contest. Wallace was kept in check, rushing 10 times for negative yardage and completing just 6-of-12 tries through the air for 41 yards and an interception.
Marr completed 14-of-17 passes for 242 yards, connecting with Bartow Keller on two touchdown throws. Grant Stevens had the other touchdown grab, catching an 80-yard toss across the middle and going to the house. Randall ran just nine times for 37 yards, but also found the end zone twice.
Fort Mill hosts Lancaster next Friday. That game is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Bob Jones Stadium.
Fort Mill 34, West Florence 7
West Florence 0;0;0;7;-; 7
Fort Mill 14;0;13;7;-; 34
FM – Grant Stevens 80 pass from J.T. Marr (Kyle Romenick kick) 10:53
FM – Bartow Keller 45 pass from Marr (Romenick kick) 4:11
FM – Keller 6 pass from Marr (kick blocked) 5:01
FM – Jackson Randall 6 run (Romenick kick) 1:51
FM – Randall 4 run (Romenick kick) 11:30
WF – Ailym Ford 5 run (Michael Hayes kick) 3:37
RUSHING West Florence: Cooper Wallace 10-(minus) 4; Ailym Ford 12-93; Talik Page Smith 1-(minus) 2; Jai-lan Ewell 4-0; Hale Emerson 2-8. Fort Mill: Grant Stevens 5-22; Sebastian Lach 4-86; Jackson Randall 9-37; Ryan Heriot 4-5; Shane Boyle 4-32; J.T. Marr 4-2; Bartow Keller 1-3.
PASSING West Florence: Wallace 6-12-1-41 yards; Emerson 7-15-0-61 yards. Fort Mill: Marr 14-17-0-242 yards.
RECEIVING West Florence: Vick Johnson 4-53; Ford 2-1; Carter Woodberry 3-10; Carlton Manning 1-2; Ryan Roberts 3-37. Fort Mill: Ben Kellam 1-28; Stevens 2-94; Keller 4-59; Boyle 4-32; Josh Cloud 2-17; Heriot 1-12.
RECORDS: West Florence 0-2, Fort Mill 1-1.