The first touchdown strike broke the stalemate and made up for prior missed drives.
Liam Welch’s last touchdown, his fourth, ensured Team Georgia would win back the paddle.
The Aquinas quarterback starred with 211 passing yards and four touchdowns as Team Georgia beat Team South Carolina, 35-21, in Border Bowl III Saturday afternoon at Lucy C. Laney Memorial Stadium. South Carolina won the “Battle for the Paddle” 12-8 a year ago, but Georgia took it back.
“I’m so honored to play in this game,” Welch said. “I’m going to look back at this and I’ll remember the guys I played with.”
Welch, the offensive player of the game, found four different targets on the scores (Evans’ Brandon Rosier, Laney’s Danye Washington, Jefferson County’s Marquis Carter and Washington County’s Markevese Latimer), trusting his receivers to win 1-on-1 battles or to get open.
Georgia’s offensive balance proved to be too much for South Carolina. With Thomson’s Billy Mance rushing for 127 yards, including a 49-yard sprint on the go-ahead score inside four minutes to go, Georgia had 438 yards.
Mance broke a 21-21 game, though the defense helped. After South Carolina tied the game on Bowen Smith’s fourth-down pass to Shakur Chisolm, South Carolina went punt, punt, lost fumble and turnover on downs.
Thomson’s Nick Moss, the defensive player of the game, led the front’s surge on the critical drive that ended with a recovered fumble.
“You got to put in your mind to be determined and dominant,” Moss said.
Before the late Georgia scores, South Carolina rallied from a 14-0 deficit. Georgia almost walked into halftime with a comfortable two-touchdown lead, but special teams blunders helped South Carolina move into a 14-14 tie.
In a 50-second span late in the second quarter, Georgia mishandled a punt and then had South Carolina’s Dalton Swires recover a live ball on a kick off. South Carolina capitalized on the short field both times, with Smith running in a 17-yard score and then competing a 1-yard touchdown pass to Chad Gilchrist on fourth down.
The first half’s stunning end – the second score clocked in with 10.5 seconds to go in the half – erased Georgia’s lead.
Georgia left points on the board early, even though Laney’s Vicen’te Thompkins and Andre James made interceptions. South Carolina’s defense made three fourth-down stops inside its own 30 or closer to hold Georgia scoreless until Welch’s second-quarter tosses.
In the third quarter, each team scored once before Georgia won the fourth quarter 14-0.
Welch’s touchdown tally surprised even him.
“I never thought I would, but the coaches put us in those spots,” Welch said about the four-touchdown day. “We’re going to go really far in our football careers.”