AIKEN — Aiken’s players and fans didn’t need a scoreboard to tell them that they had defeated crosstown rival South Aiken on Friday night.
The scoreboard wasn’t working at Hagood Stadium anyway.
The Hornets prevailed 14-10 in a defensive struggle and denied the Thoroughbreds their first three-game winning streak in the series, which dates back to the early 1980s.
When it was announced the game was over, Aiken’s student section erupted with cheers and fans rushed the field.
The Hornets (1-1) used a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to hold off the Thoroughbreds (0-1), who led for more than 43 of the game’s 48 minutes.
“We kept battling,” Aiken coach Brian Neal said. “I’ve been talking about making plays to win instead of making plays to lose, and tonight we did that.”
South Aiken shifted momentum in the Battle of Aiken rivalry when it broke a 14-game losing streak to the Hornets in 2007. The Thoroughbreds added wins in 2012 and 2013.
The two rivals used to play at the end of the season, but with Aiken dropping down to Class AAA it set up the nonregion game.
Early Friday night, it was all South Aiken.
The Thoroughbreds got a 27-yard field goal from Owen Myers in the first quarter then added a 1-yard run by Malik Lee in the third quarter to go up 10-0. The touchdown was set up by a 53-yard run by Tancey Richardson.
Aiken bounced back early in the fourth quarter with a touchdown pass from Bryson Jones to Antwan Chandler that covered 51 yards.
After stopping the Thoroughbreds inside their own 10, Aiken got prime field position at the visitors’ 35-yard line. It took only six plays to find the end zone, and Brayton Sanders did the honors with a 2-yard run to clinch the win for Aiken.
The Hornets intercepted a pass late in the game then ran out the clock.
Neal, in only his second season at Aiken, said his players let him know the significance of the rivalry.
“It feels good,” Aiken lineman Austin Schofield said. “They’ve beaten us a couple of times in a row and we came back strong and showed that Aiken High’s the real Aiken.”