LANGLEY, S.C. - Aiken got a scare from Midland Valley.
Aiken built a huge first-half lead and then withstood a great second half effort by Midland Valley to take a 22-14 win Friday at L.L. Willis Stadium.
Aiken (2-1) led 22-6 at intermission but only had one first down and 12 yards of offense in the second half.
"Like I told you on the phone, Midland Valley always plays us tough," Aiken coach Carey Johnson said. "Their coaching staff had a good game plan for us."
Mustang coach Clayton Chriswell said he told his players they had to loosen up and get physical with Aiken in the second half.
"These kids can play with anybody when they want to play," Chriswell said.
Down 22-14, Midland Valley reached the Aiken 37 yard line with four minutes to play. But on fourth-and-21, Mustang quarterback Brandon Kelly was stopped by Aiken's Jamal Reynolds after a six yard gain to give the ball back on downs to Aiken.
Aiken picked up its only first down of the second half with 2:30 remaining and eventually ran all but three seconds off the clock.
Midland Valley (1-2) got the ball back with three seconds remaining but a Kelly pass was incomplete.
"I think we got relaxed and didn't realize they were going to come after us hard," Reynolds said. "We stuck it to them in the first half."
The Anderson twins, Antoine and Antonio, sparked Aiken to a 22-6 halftime lead.
Antoine Anderson returned the opening kickoff 63 yards up the middle for a touchdown just 11 seconds into the game to give Aiken an 6-0 lead. Scott Bradford added the extra point.
"That opening kickoff set the tone for the game," Johnson said. "That was a big play by Antoine."
The Hornets stretched their lead to 13-0 with 5:09 remaining in the first quarter on a seven-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Dean to tight end Mike Abrams.
Antonio Anderson keyed the drive when he caught a quick slant from Dean and took the pass 38 yards down to the Midland Valley 9 yard line.
Aiken took a 19-0 lead in the second period on a five-yard run by sophomore James Marion. The drive was set up when linebacker Jamal Reynolds forced a fumble and Aiken's Ron Thomas recovered at the Midland Valley 30 yard line.
Scott Bradford kicked a 26-yard field goal on the last play of the first half to extend Aiken's lead to 22-6. The key play in the drive was a fake punt on fourth-and-10 from the Midland Valley 41 yard line.
Punter Mike Abrams hit Antoine Anderson on a 16-yard slant to keep the drive alive with just 18 seconds remaining in the opening half.
Neither team scored in the third period but Aiken's Mike Abrams had an unbelievable punt.
From his own 16 yard line, Abrams booted a 70-yard punt including 61 yards through the air to pin Midland Valley back at its own 10 yard line. Mustang returner Andre Thomas picked the ball up at his own 14 but lost four yards on his return.
The punt turned out to be a big second-half play.
"That was a big play because they could have had field position on us," Johnson said. "We never expected him to boot it to their 15 yard line."
Midland Valley cut Aiken's lead to 22-14 with 6:31 remaining on a 14-yard keeper by quarterback Brandon Kelly. Kelly then connected with Mikal Jones on a two-point conversion pass.
The drive was set up by a 47 yard punt return by Dwayne Johnson down to the Aiken 14 yard line.
Mustang quarterback Zay Brown did not dress due to a separated left shoulder that he suffered in the North Augusta game. Brown will find out today the extent of his injury.
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