Fort Mill put together an inspired first-half Friday night to reignite its offense, crown a standout on defense and earn its first win of the 2019 season.
After dropping the first two games by a combined score of 91-3, the Yellow Jackets (1-2) took advantage of every piece of fortune they encounter to earn a gritty, entertaining 24-14 win over the Lancaster Bruins (0-3) at Bob Jones Stadium.
Quarterback Dylan Helms (10-for-20, 230 yards) threw a Hail Mary touchdown to Xavier Easterlin and ran it into the end zone himself as Fort Mill built a 24-7 halftime lead and later iced away any chance of a Bruin comeback.
Fort Mill head coach Rob McNeely told a visibly enthused Yellow Jackets team to keep up the momentum into the future.
“We can be a really good team,” McNeely said. “We had some luck, and we capitalized on it. I’m so for these kids. We didn’t come here to shake hands and kiss babies. We came here to win a football game.”
Senior defensive back Steven Neese picked off Lancaster quarterback Sean Truesdale (2-for-19, 25 passing yards, 79 rushing yards) twice and blocked a punt to keep the Bruins from getting too close, in front of a frenzied Fort Mill crowd.
Fort Mill had been winless since Sept. 12, 2018 before finally putting it all together.
“We knew that if we came out here with a lot of energy, we could do it,” Helms said, amid a crowd of cheering Yellow Jackets. “It feels great.”
Truesdale scored on 30-yard and 6-yard plays in the first and final quarters to keep Lancaster in contention. But the signal-caller was unable to find any rhythm on offense between Neese’s timely picks and clutch fourth-quarter sacks from Fort Mill defensive linemen James Hyland and Kam Moyers.
TURNING POINT: With just 3 minutes left in the first half, Helms threw a bullet pass to Cam Lawrence over the middle for a 24-yard gain on a nervy third-and-8 at the Lancaster 32. Helms then used every inch of his 6-foot-1 frame to stretch out for a QB sneak score and put Fort Mill up by two scores. The Yellow Jackets maintained that distance for the rest of the game.
KEY PERFORMERS: While Neese, Hyland and Moyers all shined on defense, Walsh (16 carries for 56 yards) was Fort Mill’s silent hero. Wide receiver Keyan Mims caught a slant pass late in the first quarter before juking a defender and running nearly 90 yards to the Lancaster 4-yard line before fumbling the ball. Walsh quickly recovered the ball and was awarded the score to give Fort Mill a 14-7 lead.
WORTH NOTING: Helms said Easterlin deserved all the credit for Fort Mill’s first touchdown of the season. Deep in Bruin territory, Helms saw the pocket collapsing on fourth-and-17 and threw up a prayer. The ball got batted by a Lancaster defensive back but Easterlin was able to snag it just before it touched the ground.
“He bailed me out,” Helms said. “I knew that with our O-line playing as strong as they did, with our receivers making plays, we could do this.”
NEXT GAME: Lancaster welcomes Nation Ford High into town next Friday. Fort Mill heads back on the road next week to face Camden High.