EDGEFIELD, S.C. -- The ball in his hands, a smile on his face and a game-sealing touchdown -- what more could a linebacker want?
When North Augusta's Ty Williamson scooped up a muffed handoff between Strom Thurmond quarterback Antwaun Hillary and fullback Travis Barber and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown, the Yellow Jackets' 19-0 victory was secured.
"I had to run with it," Williamson said. "I saw daylight and a burst of speed came from nowhere. It seemed to push me from behind."
While Williamson's play effectively put the game out of reach, it was the running of Jamal Johnson that the Rebels couldn't overcome. The junior transfer from Midland Valley rushed for 122 yards on 17 carries.
Johnson, 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, had two touchdown runs during his Yellow Jackets debut. The first gave North Augusta its initial lead and his second was a stunner to the Rebels.
On third and 1 from the Strom Thurmond 34, Johnson battled his way between his tackles then shed two linebackers on his way to the end zone with 7:13 left in the third quarter giving the Yellow Jackets a 12-0 lead.
"I knew I wasn't going to be stopped," Johnson said. "I knew (this game) would be good. The same thing happened last year, people wanted me to fail but I've got something for them this year."
North Augusta took advantage of a fumbled punt return by William Broadwater in the first quarter to get on the board first. Broadwater couldn't handle Yellow Jackets punter Drew Manuel's 40-yard punt and Curt Berg jumped on the ball to give North Augusta possession on the Rebel 20-yard line.
Johnson was held to 3 yards on first down but erupted out of the middle for an 17-yard touchdown run with 5:13 remaining in the opening quarter. Manuel's PAT attempt was wide left but the Yellow Jackets held a 6-0 lead.
Strom Thurmond coach Brian Smith said his team's inability to run the option effectively was a critical factor in the game. He said turnovers and dropped passes spelled disaster for the Rebels.
"We didn't option at all well," Smith said. "We didn't block the linebackers, we put the ball on the ground too many times and you can't do that and beat a team like North Augusta."
The Yellow Jackets held Strom Thurmond to 21 yards of offense in the first half and denied the Rebels a single first down. North Augusta didn't capitalize however; its four turnovers in the 24 minutes kept it from extending its lead.
Three of the four turnovers occured on the Rebels side of the 50-yard line. With Johnson attracting eight-man defensive fronts, junior quarterback Bobby White picked apart the Rebels in the first half. The 6-3, 195-pound left-hander completed seven of 10 passes for 110 yards.
A Bennie Dandy interception on Strom Thurmond's 32 yard-line ended North Augusta's bid to add to its lead with 2:23 left in the half.