Editor’s note: A previous version of this article misidentified a Rock Hill wide receiver. It has since been corrected.
It didn’t take long for senior Tylik Edwards to make his mark in what may be Rock Hill’s most important win of the season to date.
The Bearcat offense hadn’t played a snap. Nation Ford had accrued negative yardage in its first three plays, and it got away a clean punt — one with enough air under it to give two Falcons time to be within a few yards of Edwards by the time he caught the ball.
But that wasn’t enough to contain the Shrine Bowl selection: Edwards caught the punt at his team’s own 29 yard line, sidestepped the two Nation Ford sprinters — and then, soon, he was home free. 7-0, Bearcats.
“I got the ball, saw two people coming at me, I split in between them, and was off to the races,” Edwards said with a smile after his team’s 31-7 win on Friday night. “I broke my leg last year, and missed my junior year, so coming back for my senior year, I’m trying to do the most that I can.”
For Edwards, Friday night’s showcase wasn’t out of the ordinary: In his senior campaign, Edwards, a corner back and returner on special teams, has scored four touchdowns — two punt returns, one interception and even a kick return for a score.
On Friday night, he was a force again.
“It’s obviously been a great year for him, bouncing back from the injury from last year,” head coach Bubba Pittman told The Herald. “It’s been a couple weeks since he’s returned a couple big ones… He kind of set the tone and the tempo for us all night long. And then he played great for us on defense.”
After Edwards’s early score, Rock Hill did what it could to extend its lead. On the offense’s second drive, quarterback Jackson Roberson found Cam Walker on a simple 10-yard hook route that Walker took to the house for a 29-yard score. 14-0, Bearcats.
Then, with 6:13 remaining in the first half, Rock Hill kicker Ethan Dutton capped off a drive with a 44-yard field goal. 17-0, Rock Hill.
The only life for Nation Ford in the half came in the form of an interception returned for a 79-yard touchdown by Jay Dabney with less than three minutes remaining. 17-7.
But then, in the Bearcats’ last drive before the halftime horn sounded, quarterback Jordan Thurmond ran in a score from 19 yards out.
The Bearcats entered halftime up 24-7 — its defense allowing minus eight (-8) yards from scrimmage.
“At the end of the day, Rock Hill came ready to play,” Nation Ford head coach Michael Allen told The Herald after the game. “And they outplayed us.”
In the second half, the only score came in the form of a 22-yard catch by Rock Hill’s Walker — his second of the night.
The Bearcats were led on the ground by Tommy Neff, who notched 49 yards, and Ashton Peterson, who notched 49. Walker made four catches for 73 yards and two touchdowns.
Rock Hill’s win on Friday night has interesting playoff implications. If the Bearcats defeat Northwestern next weekend, Rock Hill will earn second place in the region outright — and Region 4-5A will send Clover, Rock Hill and Nation Ford into the state playoffs.
But with a loss to Northwestern, those aforementioned teams will be in a three-way tie for second place — and the team with the most points allowed will be kicked out of the playoff picture.
That said, Rock Hill’s Coach Pittman isn’t going to concern himself with calculating the possibilities for the team’s playoff hopes with a loss.
Said Pittman with a reassured smile, worn because he knows his team controls its own destiny next week: “I just call the next play.”