NORTH AUGUSTA — A year after watching a region title bid fall short in a comeback attempt, North Augusta claimed a championship on its home field in thrilling, comeback fashion.
The Yellow Jackets pitched a shutout in the fourth quarter and overcame an 11-point deficit to beat Dutch Fork 33-24 on Friday night.
The win put North Augusta (10-1, 4-1 Region 5-AAAA) in a tiebreaker scenario within the region, which the Yellow Jackets won to claim the region title.
North Augusta lost to Dutch Fork last season to watch the Silver Foxes win the title on their home field in Irmo, S.C.
The loss was Dutch Fork’s first in region play this season.
“This is a special win,” coach Dan Pippin said. “Your kids have to have character to do this against a team like that. This is something I’ll remember long after I retire.”
The Yellow Jackets will find out their first-round opponent in the state playoffs today.
With 5 minutes left in Friday’s game, North Augusta marched down the field and scored on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Trib Reece to Keyon West, completing an 11-point comeback in the fourth quarter and putting the Yellow Jackets ahead for good.
“There are no words,” Reece said. “It was a great play. We knew we had to fight against a great team like that.”
Reece went 21 for 34 for 307 yards and three touchdowns. He had passing plays of 70, 49 and 26 yards in the first half alone.
Ten of Reece’s passes went to Dre Dunbar, who totaled 98 receiving yards. West added 106 yards on five receptions.
Dutch Fork (8-3, 4-1) led 24-13 at the half. Neither team scored in the third quarter, setting up a dosuble-digit deficit for the Yellow Jackets with 12 minutes remaining.
North Augusta inched back to within three on a 2-yard touchdown run by Ronald Williams. After the Yellow Jackets forced the Silver Foxes to punt, they marched down the field and took the lead on Reece’s pass to West.
Dutch Fork turned the ball over on downs on its next drive, and North Augusta sealed the win on a 4-yard touchdown run by Williams.
Dutch Fork, which came in averaging more than 45 points per game, was held scoreless in the second half as it watched North Augusta take the lead and region title from its hands.
“The defense played well all night,” Pippin said. “My coaching staff did a great job. They had a great game plan.”