Then, Darius Hammond happened.
Hammond, a senior running back for Strom Thurmond, scored three touchdowns in the third quarter, including a 55-yard run and a 62-yard punt return.
Hanahan never recovered, dropping a 27-10 decision to the Rebels at Wiley Knight Stadium to end the Hawks’ season with an 11-2 record.
“We just had a tough time getting anything going on offense,” said Hawks coach Charlie Patterson. “And that’s a credit to Strom Thurmond. They played really well on defense.”
The Hawks were without leading rusher Octavious Hayes, sidelined with an injury, and had to depend on the passing of Smalls. He hit 17 of 33 throws for 286 yards, but the long pass to Richardson was Hanahan’s only TD.
It was a sad end to the season for the Hanahan seniors, but they can reflect on a region title in Class AAA after the school spent 28 years in Class AA.
“We had a good season, but it’s not where we wanted it to end,” Patterson said. “I felt we had a chance to go all the way.”
Hammond, meanwhile, rushed for 92 yards on 18 carries for Strom Thurmond (12-1). Quarterback Jauveer Hammond, his cousin, carried 16 times for 84 yards, and hit 6 of 12 passes for 106 yards.
The Hawks started well, as Smalls hit Mario Gates for gains of 41 and 17 yards to set up a 22-yard field goal by Kyle Spigner on their first possession.
But the rest of the half was played on the Hanahan side of the 50-yard line, and the Hawks were fortunate to be down only 6-3 at halftime.
Strom Thurmond downed a punt at the Hawks’ 1, and a 15-yard Hanahan punt set up the Rebels at the Hawks’ 19. But Hanahan’s defense stiffened and forced a 30-yard field goal by Trent Miller to knot the score at 3.
A facemask penalty on Hanahan helped Strom Thurmond to a 28-yard field goal by Miller for a 6-3 lead with 2:12 left in the half. And a 40-yard pass from Hamilton to Kendall Hill set up Miller for a 38-yard field goal try just before the half.
But the Hawks’ Marlon Washington burst through to block the kick at the buzzer, leaving the halftime score at 6-3.