AIKEN — If Will Holbrook’s high school football career came to an end Friday night, the South Aiken senior has nothing to be ashamed of.
Holbrook returned an interception for a touchdown and made several key tackles as the Thoroughbreds crushed rival Aiken, 23-6, at the Stomping Grounds.
South Aiken needed the victory to keep its faint playoff hopes alive. The Thoroughbreds will find out their fate today when the South Carolina High School League announces pairings.
But for Holbrook and the other seniors, Friday night was a time to savor a win in the “Battle of Aiken.”
“It’s amazing that it’s senior night already,” Holbrook said. “It seems just like yesterday we were freshmen. The pick six just made it special. That’s going to be something I remember for the rest of my life.”
The victory was the second in a row for the Thoroughbreds against the Hornets, something South Aiken (3-8, 2-3 Region 5-AAAA) hadn’t accomplished since 1990.
Even without its starting quarterback and kicker, Aiken (1-10, 0-5 region) dominated time of possession and the statistics in the first half.
The Hornets scored first on a 5-yard run by Dramel Coleman. Then, South Aiken’s defense and special teams rose to the occasion. Holbrook stepped in front of a Bryson Jones pass and returned it 35 yards untouched to tie the score in the second quarter.
Owen Myers booted a 42-yard field goal just before halftime to extend South Aiken’s lead to 10-6.
South Aiken coach Jeremy West challenged his team at halftime.
“Execute and put it in the end zone, that was our message,” he said. “I thought we needed to take it down there and score to start the second half. They came out and did that, so I’m proud of them.”
The Thoroughbreds took the second half kickoff and marched down the field in 11 plays on a time-consuming drive. Adam Allen punched it in from the 2 to give the Thoroughbreds a bit of a cushion.
Then, after stopping the Hornets and getting good field position, Bo Baldwin dropped back and delivered a perfect strike to Matt Albertson for a 43-yard score.
South Aiken held Aiken to 42 rushing yards in the second half as it dominated the line of scrimmage.
Aiken coach Brian Neal, who took over the program in late spring, acknowledged that South Aiken now has the upper hand in the rivalry.
“We had some injuries but they’re better than we are at this point,” he said. “We’ve just got to try and catch up.”
With South Carolina’s split of the Class AAAA playoffs, there is still a chance for South Aiken to make the playoffs despite its losing record.
“Coach said we’ll find out tomorrow morning,” Holbrook said. “We had to have a little help. We’ll see how it turns out.”
Then, after surveying the celebration on his home field, he smiled.
“It’s a good way to go out,” he said.