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Sports: Warriors on a roll toward third place finish
By Jason Lesley
Waccamaw High’s football team has been in playoff mode the past two weeks. A 34-6 win over Aynor moved the Warriors into third place in Region VIII-AA behind Dillon and Loris, and a win over Marion Friday would cement it.
With a third-place finish, the Warriors would avoid playing a region champion in the first round.
“We understand what is at stake,” WHS coach Tyronne Davis said. “There’s a little extra motivation and excitement with our team right now. We’re in better position than we have been [in past seasons]. The fact we’re playing for something different makes it special.”
A win over Marion would take the do-or-die aspect away from Waccamaw’s last home game of the season against defending state champion and region favorite Dillon on Oct. 31. A fourth place finish in the region could create the unpleasant prospect of following that game with a Nov. 7 playoff game at Dillon.
But Davis stressed the task at hand is Marion and not looking ahead to Dillon.
“We’ve done a good job of staying grounded and taking it one game at a time,” Davis said. “We’re not going to change that now. A lot of things could happen in the next couple of weeks. The last part of the season can get kind of crazy. But our priority now is Marion.”
The Swamp Foxes (4-4, 0-3 Region VIII-AA) still have something at stake. With a win, Marion would remain alive for the region’s fourth playoff spot despite its 56-7 loss to Dillon last week. Waccamaw (5-3, 2-1) entered last week’s game tied with Aynor in the region but won by a surprising four touchdowns. Waccamaw had 277 yards on the ground with Kevin Gasque racking up 172 on 14 carries and Kelton Grant getting 59 on just six. The Warrior’s controlled the line of scrimmage on offense and made big plays on defense while limiting Aynor’s ground game to just over half its 300-yard average. “We’ve been more physical this year than any time before,” Davis said. “We have been playing great defense and got big turnovers. Those are things we tried to work on this offseason. To be a good football team you’ve got to do the small things right. That’s what we focused on. The effort of the kids has been wonderful.”
Warriors Tyriq Grant and Jemon Smalls contributed big plays on defense that kept the Blue Jackets (4-4, 1-2) from making a game of it Friday. Blue Jacket coach Jody Jenerette was disappointed that his team didn’t put up more of a fight. “They punched us in the mouth,” he told a Myrtle Beach reporter, “and we did not respond.”
With Waccamaw leading 6-0 after Tim Green ran 7 yards for a touchdown with 4:53 left in the first quarter, Aynor’s Daquan Smith raced 55 yards deep into Waccamaw territory. The next snap sailed over quarterback Caleb Jenerette’s head, and Tyriq Grant scooped the ball up and raced 59 yards to the end zone. Gasque’s 63-yard touchdown run in the second quarter put Aynor into a 20-0 hole that its run-first offense was not equipped to overcome. Evidence of that came early in the third quarter when Smalls intercepted a pass and ran 69 yards before being pushed out of bounds inside the 5-yard line. “He tried to tightrope it,” Davis said, “and couldn’t do it.” Gasque’s 1-yard plunge and Davis Hogan’s extra point put the Warriors ahead 27-0 halfway through the third quarter.
Aynor’s Kamron Johnson scored on a 46-yard pass from Jenerette in the third quarter, but Waccamaw’s Kelton Grant answered with a 44-yard touchdown run in the fourth.
A stingy defense has been a driving force for Waccamaw’s turnaround. Seven of eight opponents have been held under 20 points, and the Warriors have surrendered only a handful of offensive touchdowns in conference play.
“We’re physically stronger, and that has improved our confidence,” Davis said. “We’re also more versatile. We don’t have to just sit back in our base [scheme] and see what an offense is doing. We can move people around and take more chances.”
Marion uses a double-wing attack similar to Aynor’s that produced a few big plays but no sustained drives last week.
“The difference,” Davis said, “is they tend to be more physical and go right at you. They like to get to the corner, but they can run inside as well.” Aynor defeated Marion, 26-24.
Offensively, Gasque continues to fuel a run-oriented attack and is nearing the 800-yard mark for the season.
“He gets better as the game goes along,” Davis said. “His running sets up a lot of things for us.”
Roger Greene contributed to this story.