AIKEN - Forget about that slow start.
It's almost November, and that can mean only one thing for Aiken's football team: the playoffs are near.
The Hornets took a big step toward another playoff berth, defeating North Augusta 34-9 on Friday night at Hagood Stadium in a battle of Region 4-AAAA rivals.
Cortez Abney scored a pair of touchdowns and three other Aiken players found the end zone as the Hornets improved to 5-5 and 3-1 in the region. North Augusta fell to 5-5 and 2-2.
Quentin Woods, who scored on a first-half run and also had an interception, said the message going into Friday night's game was simple for the Hornets.
"Playoffs," he said. "Everybody's focused on the playoffs."
After a 1-4 start, including lopsided losses to Dorman and Camden County (Ga.), the Hornets have won four of their past five games.
Aiken's offense is starting to click as it has scored 31 or more points in those four victories.
Those wins have erased the bad vibes from early in the season.
"They're gone, we don't worry about that," Woods said. "We don't care what the fans are talking about, we're playing our own game now."
Aiken took advantage of its excellent field position in the first half. All three of the Hornets' touchdowns came when they took possession inside of North Augusta's 50-yard line.
Aiken quarterback Marcel Harley gave his team the early lead on a 2-yard burst up the middle. That drive, which began at the 50, was highlighted by a 29-yard pass from Harley to Demetrius Washington.
The Hornets held the Yellow Jackets on the ensuing drive, and Washington returned the punt 34 yards to give Aiken excellent field position again at the North Augusta 36. It took the Hornets only four plays to find the end zone as Woods carried the ball the final 7 yards on a toss sweep.
Aiken's final score of the half came after Woods intercepted a Travis Murphy pass. The Hornets took over at the Yellow Jackets' 48, and on the first play Harley pitched the ball to Washington, who pulled up and threw a 26-yard strike to Thomas Timmerman. Three plays later, Abney rumbled up the middle from 7 yards out for the touchdown.
"We just have to have a better week of preparation. We've had three very emotional games in a row," Pippin said. "I didn't do a very good job of preparing them."
Aiken can wrap up second place in the region with a victory next week against archrival South Aiken.
North Augusta plays host to region leader Irmo, but it too is in good shape for a playoff berth.
"If we win another game we're in for sure," Pippin said.
Reach John Boyette at (706) 823-3337 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
AIKEN 34, NORTH AUGSUTA 9
NORTH AUGUSTA 6 3 0 0 - 9
AIKEN 13 7 7 7 - 34
A-MARCEL HARLEY 2 RUN (KICK FAILED), 8:30
A-QUENTIN WOODS 7 RUN (DESMOND REARDON KICK), 6:02
NA-DAITRELE DIXON 13 PASS FROM TRAVIS MURPHY (KICK FAILED), :30
A-CORTEZ ABNEY 7 RUN (REARDON KICK), 7:02
NA-STEPHEN STUBBERFIELD 32 FG, :01
A-DEMETRIUS WASHINGTON 44 RUN (REARDON KICK), 9:29
A-ABNEY 3 RUN (REARDON KICK), 8:59
FIRST DOWNS 10 13
RUSHES-YARDS 26-66 48-255
PASSING YARDS 87 55
COMP.-ATT.-INT. 10-30-2 2-5-0
FUMBLES-LOST 2-2 1-0
PUNTS-YARDS 7-35.4 8-26.6
PENALTIES-YARDS 4-33 7-65
RUSHING-NORTH AUGUSTA: MARCUS THURMOND 3-5, TRAVIS MURPHY 8-8, TIDY JOHNSON 11-35, DARELL CURRY 3-13. AIKEN: CORTEZ ABNEY 17-77, QUENTIN WOODS 9-48, MARCEL HARLEY 5-13, JEREMY ROBINSON 7-48, DEMETRIUS WASHINGTON 6-65, JAY SALLEY 2-7, HUNTER SCOTT 1-2.
PASSING-NORTH AUGUSTA: TRAVIS MURPHY 9-25-1 FOR 72 YARDS; LORENZO HAMMOND 1-5-1 FOR 15 YARDS. AIKEN: MARCEL HARLEY 1-3-0 FOR 29 YARDS; DEMETRIUS WASHINGTON 1-2-0 FOR 26 YARDS.
RECEIVING-NORTH AUGUSTA: RONALD SIMS 3-13, DAITRELE DIXON 1-13, MARCUS THURMOND 2-17, MATT HAZEL 2-24, DAVE DIXON 2-20. AIKEN: DEMETRIUS WASHINGTON 1-29, THOMAS TIMMERMAN 1-26.
PLAY OF THE GAME: On the first series of the second half, Aiken's Demetrius Washington broke a 44-yard touchdown run to put his team up 27-9.
WHY AIKEN WON: The Hornets showed off their familiar ball-control offense. Aiken took advantage of good field position and rushed for more than 250 yards.
WHY NORTH AUGUSTA LOST: The Yellow Jackets never got their offense on track. Star running back Tidy Johnson was held in check, and the North Augusta receivers dropped several catchable balls.
STAR OF THE GAME: Washington ran for 65 yards, caught a key pass in the first half and even threw a halfback pass to set up another score. He left in the third quarter with a knee injury.