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Sandlappers Battle Back To Earn Hard-Fought 10-10 Tie In 82nd Annual Shrine Bowl

Sandlappers Battle Back To Earn Hard-Fought 10-10 Tie In 82nd Annual Shrine Bowl

By Billy G. Baker


Spartanburg—With twice the population, and twice as many high schools, North Carolina has won the last three Shrine Bowls, and in warm-ups for the 82nd annual all-star game it looked like a David versus Goliath situation could unfold from field level at Gibbes Stadium at Wofford College Saturday.

However, the Sandlappers won the battle of special teams. And they played very well on defense in a game played among the best 44 football players from each state with the 10-10 tie feeling like a huge moral victory for the Sandlapper when the game ended in deadlock.

Out-weighed 35 pounds in both lines, the Sandlappers took on the personality of their head coach Jackie Hayes of Dillon in playing with heart and total tenacity to hang tough with the Tar Heel squad selected from over 600 public high schools in North Carolina. The Sandlapper team was chosen from just over 200 SCHSL member schools. Coach Hayes and his staff put together one of the better coaching jobs in Shrine Bowl history to snap a three- game losing streak to the Tar Heels.

In his huddle talk with the Sandlapper team after the game Coach Hayes praised the team for competing well against the favored Tar Heels. “Nobody gave us a chance to win the game and many people predicted a blow-out so in my mind you are all winners,” he said in an emotional farewell to a group of players he had spent the entire week with. “I love all of you and I have enjoyed coaching you this week.”

When asked about the possibility of retirement after the Shrine Bowl game the Hall of Famer told the HSSR, “Right now I just want to go home and enjoy the holidays and any decision about my future will come in January,” said Coach Hayes. “I have been saying for the past few years that it will be sooner rather than later.”

The Sandlappers got on the board first with 5:19 left in the opening period on a 45- yard scoring pass from Greenville High (Pittsburgh) quarterback Davis Beville to Quandarius Jefferson of Hillcrest High. Michael Hayes of West Florence made the PAT.  Beville was named the Offensive MVP for the Sandlappers completing 9 of 16 passes for 114 yards and one score.

 The Tar Heels came back and tied the score at the 10:39 mark of the second quarter on a 61-yard burst by Southern Nash’s Zonovan Knight who went untouched after he cleared the line of scrimmage. The PAT was made by Greensboro Page kicker Matthew Chmil.

Knight is an N.C. State commitment and is rated as the number 9 running back in the nation by one national scouting service. He was the named the Offensive MVP for the Tar Heel team and he finished with 151 yards rushing on 24 carries against the bend but don’t break Sandlapper defense.

North Carolina took a 10-7 lead into the half on a 19- yard field goal with 49 seconds left in the first half. They started this possession on their own 27 at the 8:49 mark. They advanced all the way to the three- yard line 18 plays later when Knight was gang tackled at the three on a third and goal situation. After a five- yard penalty on 4th down the Tar Heels settled on a 19- yard field goal by Chmil to take the lead.    

North Carolina received the second half kick-off and moved 57 yards in 10 plays, but a great defensive stand led by Zacch Pickens of T.L. Hanna (USC), Shamar McCollum of Dillon (Wake Forest), Hugh Ryan of Dutch Fork, along with Ja-Quez Smith of Gaffney and Davon Gilmore of Fort Dorchester stopped the drive at the 11-yard line. Knight was stopped for no gain and a one-yard loss on back-to-back plays and a third down pass was incomplete.  The Tar Heels missed a 28- yard field goal wide right.

The Tar Heels maintained a three- point lead until the Sandlappers put together an impressive drive of their own starting at the Tar Heel 38 after McCollum came through untouched to block a punt giving the Sandlappers the ball. At this point the Sandlappers went Wild Cat with the 6-5, 283-pound Pickens and he rushed four times for 19 yards on the drive. When the drive stalled at the Tar Heel 8-yard line Hayes tied the score on a 25-yard field goal with 2:05 left in the game.

Each team had one more possession in the game but neither team advanced pass mid-field. “If we could have got 8 or 10 more yards on our last play of the game we were going to give Hayes a chance to kick a long field goal, but they stopped us,” said Coach Hayes. “We had a great week of practice and the players were well behaved all week and did what we asked them to do. I am really proud of their efforts today.”

North Carolina head coach Steve Davis of Dudley High said after the game, “The real winners today are the crippled children at the Shriners Hospitals all over the country,” he said. “It was a hard-fought game and both teams left it all the field.”

The Sandlapper MVP was Pickens who earlier in the day was named the South Carolina Mr. Football for the 2018 season by the South Carolina Athletic Coaches Association. “It was an honor to play in the Shrine Bowl and I am humbled by the Mr. Football award,” he said. “After I fumbled I just wanted another chance to make it up to the team. We worked really hard this week and I am just glad we were able to give them a great game today.”

Pickens had seven tackles in the game was double teamed most of the game. The top tackler for the Sandlappers were Ryan with 9 stops and Smith had 7 as did Gilmore. South Pointe’s Jaylen Mahoney and Anthony Wilson of Spring Valley each had six tackles. Clemson linebacker commitment Gregory Williams of Swansea had five tackles along with McCollum and Westwood High (USC) defensive back Cam Smith who left the game in the second half with an injury.  

In total the Sandlaper defense made 14 TFL stops resulting in minus-33 yards while the tar Heels had seven TFL resulting in 11 yards of losses. One major factor in the game was the Tar Heels punting six times for an 18.5 yards per average.  The Sandlappers were able to stay in the game with the Tar Heels by playing great defense and winning the special teams battle.

The Tar Heel Defensive MVP was defensive back J.R. Walker of Clayton County. He joined Jaylon Sharpe of Rocky River High with six tackles each to pace the Tar Heel defense.

Pickens and Cortney Jackson of Abbeville led Sandlapper rushers with 37 and 36 net yards respectively. T.L Hanna quarterback Alex Meredith (Army) rushed for 12 yards and completed four passes. West Florence running back Ailym Ford rushed twice for 10 yards and caught three passes for 15 yards. Jefferson led Sandlapper receivers with four catches for 65 yards and a touchdown. D.J. Chisolm of Berkeley had two catches for 25 yards and ran an inside reverse for seven yards.  

Over the years the Shrine Bowl of the two Carolinas has raised nearly $70 million dollars for support of Shriners Hospitals all over North America. The Shrine Bowl is the oldest high school all-star game in the nation.

At half-time Dean Boyd of Marlboro County was introduced as next years head coach of the Sandlappers.  

© 2017 High School Sports Report

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