WILLISTON, S.C. --- Before Williston-Elko lined up for a key fourth down play from the 1 late in the third quarter, Strom Thurmond lineman Octavius Brown looked over at fellow lineman Chris Griffin.
"This," Brown said, "is what we've been working for all summer."
Strom Thurmond's defense came through with another big play and the Rebels held off the Blue Devils, 7-0, in their Week 0 opener.
Williston-Elko scored 24 or more points in every game en route to the Class A Division II title last season. But a mistake-laden Blue Devils squad watched their 14-game winning streak come to a close.
Senior quarterback Tamyn Garrick threw three interceptions. Senior wide receiver Dexter Staley dropped a sure-fire touchdown pass from the 5 in the second quarter. Junior running back Kendric Salley failed to score on four consecutive runs from inside the 4-yard line late in the third quarter -- the final run stuffed by Brown and Griffin.
"They played great defense on the goal line," Williston-Elko coach Dwayne Garrick said. "We'll be a better football team. We'll be fine."
Strom Thurmond, a Class AA team, ran 20 fewer plays than Williston-Elko and managed just 157 yards of total offense. Quarterback Raleigh Yeldell went 7 for 9 passing for 69 yards and also rushed for 61 yards on 12 carries.
Marquise Lomax picked off two passes for Strom Thurmond, while Cody Johnson had another interception.
Williston-Elko rushed for 182 yards on 49 carries, with Salley carrying the ball 33 times for 134 yards. Staley recorded 54 yards rushing and one catch for 21 yards. Garrick completed three of 10 passes for 41 yards.
The Blue Devils controlled the clock for most of the game with its wishbone offense. But Williston-Elko failed to score on three red-zone attempts.
"We played our butts off," the Rebels' Lomax said. "This felt like the Super Bowl to me."
"We try to pride ourselves on defense," Strom Thurmond coach Lee Sawyer said. "This is my seventh year and I don't remember a better performance."
Strom Thurmond held the ball for just 8 minutes and 26 seconds in the first half, but the Rebels made a few clutch plays, none bigger than the one on offense just before halftime.
Yeldell rumbled up the middle for a 14-yard gain in Blue Devils territory, but he lost the ball. Running back Malcolm Watkins scooped it up and dashed another 15 yards to the 5.
Three plays later, Antonio Hamilton made a juggling 2-yard catch in the end zone with 1:24 left in the second quarter.
Strom Thurmond led 7-0 at halftime. For the Rebels defense, that was more than enough.