High School Football

Fort Mill’s bomb good for early lead but Jackets implode as game wore on

Unusual TD catch not enough to help Fort Mill against stout River Bliff team

River Bluff thumped Fort Mill (S.C.) 61-34 in both teams’ high school football season opener on Aug. 17, 2018. Hear from Yellow Jackets’ coach Rob McNeely after the game.
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River Bluff thumped Fort Mill (S.C.) 61-34 in both teams’ high school football season opener on Aug. 17, 2018. Hear from Yellow Jackets’ coach Rob McNeely after the game.

The River Bluff Gators took a major bite out of the Fort Mill Yellow Jackets as they spoiled the coaching debut for Fort Mill’s Rob McNeely with a 61-34 blowout win to open the 2018 season.

Fort Mill finished the season last year at 4-7 and River Bluff was 2-8 overall, as both looked to get off to a good start on the season.

Coming into the season, Fort Mill had what some would consider a quarterback controversy between senior JT Marr and junior Dylan Helms on who would be the starter. That was solved when Marr was injured during the Indian Land scrimmage last week when he broke his collarbone. Marr is out for the season. That left Helms winning the spot for the season.

The Gators scored on their opening drive of the game on a 59-yard pass by Michael Rikard coming out of a River Bluff timeout.

Fort Mill came out on its first offensive play with Helms hitting Cam Saunders for a 60-yard pickup and getting the Jackets into the red zone. The Jackets scored five plays later as Sebastian Lach put the first points on the board for Fort Mill.

Both teams continued to trade touchdowns like boxers trading punches and neither team was able to get an early advantage. The Gators did take a 21-14 lead after the first quarter as Fort Mill gave up a big 56-yard run on River Bluff’s last drive of the opening quarter.

River Bluff’s defense started to grow in strength as the game wore on getting to Helms and the Jackets’ runners in the backfield periodically. Fort Mill also struggled in the first half with penalties, which put the Jackets in bad spots during the second quarter.

Turning point

Near the start of the second quarter, Fort Mill got called for a 15-yard penalty backing them up into their own territory, which led to the Jackets having to punt for the first time in the game. River Bluff took advantage of the punt as they would put together an eight play drive to score on a 57-yard touchdown run to go up two scores over Fort Mill at 28-14.

Critical

The Jackets’ defense struggled on River Bluff’s drives in giving up big plays, where the Gators would break off big chunks of yardage to get into the end zone. Fort Mill’s offense clicked just was well against the Gators defense early on as the Jackets mixed it up with their offense with both the pass and the run.

As much of a struggle as it was for Fort Mill giving up the big play, it was a struggle for River Bluff to hold onto the ball as the Jackets recovered two Gator fumbles in the second quarter, scoring on one of those opportunities. Fort Mill also turned the ball over on their first drive of the third quarter, which eventually resulted in a River Bluff touchdown extending their lead.

Star contributions

Helms completed his first seven passes of the game for Fort Mill. He finished with 278 yards, going 19-27 through the air. Lach rushed for 177 yards on 18 carries. River Bluff’s Braden Walker rushed for 259 yards on 20 carries and had two 50 plus yards in touchdown runs for the Gators in the first half. Walker scored three rushing touchdowns and returned a 90-yard kickoff for a touchdown as well.

On deck

The Jackets will open their home schedule against a former longtime foe in Chester, who they used to play more often when Fort Mill was a smaller school. That game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Bob Jones Stadium on Aug. 24.

Box score

Fort Mill 14;6;7;7;-;34

River Bluff 21;9;14;17;-61

Scoring Summary

First quarter

RB - Michael Rikard 59 pass to Chris Sanchez (Coltin Hallman kick), 10:33

FM - Sebastian Lach 2 run (Ben Rich kick), 8:56

RB - Antonio Gantt 3 run (Hallman kick), 4:55

FM - Dylan Helms 8 run (Rick kick), 2:48

RB - Braden Walker 56-yard run (Hallman kick), 1:31

Second quarter

RB - Walker 57 run (Hallman kick), 6:12

RB - Safety (bad snap on FM punt attempt), 4:23

FM - Helms 27 pass to Alan Stevens (kick failed), 2:17

Third quarter

RB - Gantt 2 run (Hallman kick), 7:11

FM - Helms 4 run (Rich kick), 5:39

RB - Walker 90-yard kickoff return (Hallman kick), 5:25

Fourth quarter

RB - Walker 44 run (Hallman kick), 10:41

RB - Hallman 43-yard field goal, 6:35

RB - Uriah West 42 run (kick good), 2:32

FM - Lach 6 run (Rich kick), 0:25

Team statistics

FM; RB

First downs 21;21

Rushes/yards 39-241;41-435

Passing 19-27-2;9-12-0

Passing yards 278;125

Fumbles/lost 1-1; 2-2

Penalties/yards 6-39;16-149

Individual statistics

RUSHING Fort Mill: Sebastian Lach 18-177, Dylan Helms 13-31, Tedarrian Reaves 5-17, Ben Kellam 1-0, D’ Angelo Coit 1-5, Cam Saunders 1-11. River Bluff: Braden Walker 20-259, Antonio Gantt 12-90, Michael Rikard 1-2, Riley Myers 3-22, Uriah West 4-62.

PASSING Fort Mill: Dylan Helms 19-27-2 278. River Bluff: Michael Rikard 9-12-0-125, Braden Walker 0-1-0 0.

RECEIVING Fort Mill: Cam Saunders 3-75, Josh Cloud 7-87, Alan Stevens 6-82, Sebastian Lach 3-34. River Bluff: Austin Murton 2-7, Braden Walker 1-6, Dillon London 1-5, Kendall Long 2-57, Antonio Gantt 2-47, Damone Spencer 1-3.

RECORDS Fort Mill 0-1, River Bluff 1-0.

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