NORTH AUGUSTA — It was Derius Gibson’s show this time around.
In a rivalry game that seems to top itself each year, the North Augusta running back upped his own game to lead the Yellow Jackets to a 34-21 victory over Strom Thurmond on Friday night.
Gibson, one of the top rushers in the area, notched 218 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries in his final matchup with the rival Rebels. North Augusta totaled 337 yards of offense.
No. 4 North Augusta rolled to its first 5-0 start since 2014 and second consecutive victory over No. 7 Strom Thurmond (3-2). The Yellow Jackets topped the Rebels in four overtimes last season and they avenged a loss to the Class AAA opponent on their home turf in 2015 with Friday’s win.
Gibson broke several long runs en route to 135 rushing yards on seven carries at the half as North Augusta led 15-7.
The game started ominously for North Augusta as Landon Washington was picked off by DeShaun Miles on the first play from scrimmage. A short field led to a 7-yard touchdown pass from Jaquan Harris to Tyrek Williams for a 7-0 Strom Thurmond lead.
North Augusta’s DeJuan Bell sprinted past the 50 on the ensuing kickoff and the Yellow Jackets struck on the first play when Washington threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Junuis Walker to tie it at 7.
Despite both teams threatening multiple times in the second quarter, North Augusta provided the only score when Washington scored on a 10-yard run for a 15-7 advantage.
Gibson got on the board midway through the third quarter on a 41-yard touchdown run and a 55-yard punt return for a score by Kashaun Johnson gave the Yellow Jackets a 28-7 lead after three quarters.
The breathing room proved important when Strom Thurmond scored twice in the fourth. Williams broke a 58-yard run and Jaquan Edwards rushed in from 11 yards. A short Gibson touchdown run between the two Rebel scores kept the Yellow Jackets comfortably ahead.
Strom Thurmond faced the challenge of losing Harris to a lower leg injury late in the first half and playing without him throughout the second half. Williams filled in admirably and totaled 92 rushing yards, while Edwards rushed for 119 yards, but the Rebels were without a passing game the rest of the way.