DeJuan Bell and his South Carolina teammates made a declaration by text message the night before Border Bowl V.
“We’re all in a group chat and we were texting since last night that we were not going to lose,” Bell said.
The North Augusta standout athlete did his part to make sure that didn’t happen.
Bell returned an interception nearly the length of the field to propel Team South Carolina to a 32-25 victory over Team Georgia in the fifth annual all-star game Saturday at Lucy C. Laney Memorial Stadium.
In a back-and-forth fourth quarter full of drama and big plays, the biggest came with 1:52 left when Bell picked off a Georgia pass around the 10-yard line and returned it 90 yards for a score to put South Carolina ahead. It proved to be a fitting conclusion to the area high school season after Bell took the area by storm with nine interceptions and multiple kick returns for touchdowns for North Augusta.
“It’s nice to be on that side of the ball with him this time,” said South Carolina coach Chris Hamilton of South Aiken. “I’ve seen that a couple times. It’s nice to see him do that when he’s on my side. That was fun. He’s an exciting player, dynamic player. I just knew we had to give him a chance to make something happen and we did.”
South Carolina won for the second consecutive year after a dramatic two-point victory in 2017, and they took a 3-2 lead in the Border Bowl series.
The win was far from certain at any point in a fourth quarter with ties and lead changes.
After Georgia held an 18-12 lead early in the fourth, South Carolina’s Cody Boynton hit Will Sheehan on a 7-yard touchdown pass to tie at 18 with 5:52 left.
On the second play from scrimmage on the next possession, Georgia fumbled and South Carolina’s Tyrek Williams scooped it up, taking it around 25 yards for a score and the team’s first lead at 25-18.
Georgia’s Chardell Hales hit Tyquan Johnson on a 55-yard touchdown strike with 4:30 left to tie at 25, and Artest Banks followed with an interception to give Georgia a chance to regain the lead. But facing third and long in South Carolina territory, Georgia threw a deep pass that Bell picked off up the middle, and he weaved his way 90 yards for the eventual game-winning score.
For good measure, South Carolina’s Jaquan Edwards intercepted Georgia on the next drive to seal the game, and Hamilton was soaked with a water cooler on the cold afternoon.
“Like I told everybody all week, this group has done a good job coming together,” Hamilton said. “There was no finger pointing. They stayed the course and knew what they were supposed to do and know that it’s going to work out. We just did our thing.”
Williams and Edwards, Strom Thurmond teammates, came up big on defense late, while Bell was named Defensive Player of the Game. South Aiken’s Deshun Kitchings was named Offensive Player of the Game for his four catches, 100 yards and one touchdown.
Boynton went 7 for 18 for 143 yards and two touchdowns. Thoroughbreds teammate Chris Roberts rushed 15 times for 94 yards.
Jefferson County’s Hales went 6 for 14 for 169 yards for Georgia. He teamed with Screven County’s Tyquan Johnson twice for 95 yards.
“I think both teams fought all game,” said Georgia coach J.B. Arnold of Jefferson County. “Lot of mistakes, which you’re going to get when you get teams together for a week. A lot of penalties. It is what it is. I enjoyed the kids, I enjoyed the coaches, enjoyed Channel 6 and everybody’s hospitality. They do a great job with this. It’s a great thing for the CSRA.”
Proceeds from the game, put on by WJBF News Channel 6 and The Augusta Chronicle, benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities of Augusta.
Reach David Lee at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TEAM SOUTH CAROLINA 32, TEAM GEORGIA 25