Laney needed yards, and it needed a bunch in a hurry.
Instead, it went backward.
The Wildcats hurt themselves at costly times, including having a bad snap, penalty and interception on their final chance in a 21-20 loss to Screven County on Friday night.
The loss drops Laney to 2-3 overall and 0-1 in Region 3-AA.
“It’s a big game,” Gamecocks coach Ron Duncan said. “And all it does is make every game from now on even bigger.”
Starting at its 30 with 81 seconds remaining, Laney had a low snap on first down that forced George Myers to fall on the ball for a 10-yard loss. After a spike, the Wildcats threw an incomplete pass, lost five more yards on a penalty, and then desperately put up a pass that was picked off on fourth down.
The miscues also involved more than 100 yards in penalties, with holding woes a problem. Laney also missed an extra point after its final touchdown; the Wildcats appeared to be going for a two-point conversion and the lead with 3:18 to play, but a penalty forced them to kick.
The kick was low and had no chance to travel through.
Myers did rush for 161 yards and three scores to match Jeremy Johnson’s three touchdowns, but the Gamecocks ended the four-game losing skid in the series and moved to 5-1 overall and 2-0 in the region.
For most of the game, Screven County depended on the bruising Johnson to get yards.
The big back rushed on seven of his team’s first eight offensive plays, eventually finishing with 54 yards on 15 carries in the first half. Johnson closed with 117 yards on 26 carries.
With Johnson powering by defenders, the Gamecocks would then go with speedy Josh Kerson or a rare pass. They needed only three completions to get 69 pass yards.
Laney did get 149 rushing yards in the first half, but repeated penalties kept pushing it farther away from the first-down marker. It trailed 14-7 at the half.
Still, Myers gave his team a 53-yard scoring burst – right after a holding penalty, too – that gave Laney the 7-0 edge before Screven County controlled the rest of the opening half.
Myers scored twice more, once tying the game at 14, but it wasn’t enough.
“They really stepped up tonight,” Duncan said of his players. “They played tough and hard.”