NORTH AUGUSTA — His team ahead without taking an offensive snap, North Augusta quarterback Tyrell Hillary knew it was about to be a big night.
The Yellow Jackets scored on the first play of the game and kept adding points from there as they beat South Florence and advanced to the semifinals of the Class AAAA Division II state playoffs with a 46-20 win Friday night.
“When we get started … it’s hard to stop us,” Hillary said.
Hillary threw four touchdown passes and Vinny Miller scored three ways, starting with his 78-yard kickoff return to begin the game.
North Augusta (12-1) scored on the first play in three quarters and had more than 300 offensive yards in the decisive first half as the Jackets led 32-7 at the break.
Miller weaved through, outran and overpowered the Bruins’ defense as he rushed for 139 of his game-best 163 yards in the first half.
A little more than a minute after his kickoff return, Miller found the end zone again with a 39-yard run. On two touches, Miller already had more than 100 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns.
Though the Bruins scored midway through the first quarter, North Augusta kept finding the end zone as the running game opened up the passing attack. The Yellow Jackets didn’t punt until about three minutes remained in the third quarter.
Miller scored on a pass from Hillary in the second quarter then got another touchdown one play after what would have been a one-handed catch was ruled incomplete.
Later, as Hillary threw on the run, a bullet found Montez McGuire for a 50-yard scoring reception, one of six touchdowns that traveled at least 35 yards.
Hillary threw only two incompletions all night, finding success on throws like screens and longer tosses.
He needed only 18 pass attempts to reach 253 yards, with three of his final four completions going for touchdowns.
South Florence (8-5) might have opened the second half with a touchdown drive, but North Augusta put pressure on quarterback Ethan Grainger and recovered a fumble to hold an offense that was averaging more than 30 points a game. Jamal Cain rushed for 55 yards in the game on eight carries, and the visitors’ third touchdown came on an interception return.
“It’s fantastic,” said North Augusta coach Dan Pippin, who told his players they would be practicing on Thanksgiving Day, just like the were a year ago.