AIKEN -- Carey Johnson's concerns were justified but not realized as Aiken extended its winning streak to three games with a 32-0 victory over South Aiken at Hagood Stadium Friday night.
The Hornets coach was worried his team would still be riding the high of last week's emotional 23-16 win against Irmo. A less-than spectacular week of practice heightened his concerns but his players showed no signs of letdown against the Thoroughbreds (0-9, 0-5 Region 3-AAAA).
"I was worried about their focus," Johnson said. "They showed they're ready to play every time we step on the field."
Aiken (4-5, 3-2) converted two fumbles by South Aiken into 10 points in the first quarter. The Thoroughbreds coughed the ball up on their first two drives. The Hornets turned the first into a 27-yard field goal by Morgan Cooke with 8:41 remaining in the opening period.
Senior quarterback Garret Amerine scored the first of his two touchdowns 24 seconds later. Matt Holly set up the one-yard touchdown by falling on a fumble by Aiken. Amerine, who added another touchdown in the third quarter, admitted the Hornets weren't sharp in their preparation for South Aiken.
"We didn't really practice good this week," Amerine said. "We came out intense and showed the coaches what we could do. As long as we don't do the stupid things like turn the ball over, we'll be all right."
Anthony Gibson and Antwan Smith scored on similar plays to round out Aiken's scoring. Both ran untouched through the Thoroughbreds secondary as Aiken perfectly executed two reverses. Gibson's 39-yard scamper came with 9:34 left in the second quarter. He took the ball from Roderquize Chandler around the left end and weaved his way to the end zone.
Marcus McMillan put the football in Smith's hands late in the third quarter and the sophomore left the defenders in his wake for a 16-yard score.
Sophomore receiver Brian Staley had the Hornets lone catch of the night. Staley said the team understood it couldn't bask in the glow of last week's victory forever. He said the Hornets must continue to play as they have the past three weeks if they want to extend their season.
"We try to do what we need to do to win," Staley said. "We showed tonight every time we come out we have to come out hard. We've gotten better each week."
Aiken's defense played with the same tenacity it displayed last week against Irmo. The Hornets swarmed South Aiken's ball carriers and limited the Thoroughbreds to 42 yards of total offense through three quarters. South Aiken has not defeated its cross-town rival since 1993.
The Hornets have positioned themselves for a shot at second place in Region 3-AAAA. Entering Friday, three teams trailed region leader Lexington (7-1, 4-0) by one game. Orangeburg-Wilkinson, Irmo and North Augusta were just one game in front of Aiken.
Orangeburg-Wilkinson still has Irmo on its schedule, Irmo plays host to Lexington next Friday and Aiken travels to North Augusta next week. An Aiken victory and losses by the others ahead of it, would have the Hornets in second if they win out. They would slip ahead of the others because they won in head-to-head meetings.
Amerine believes his team has improved so much during its winning streak that he wouldn't mind having rematches against the teams that beat Aiken earlier this season.
"I think right now if we played the games that we lost over, we'd win," Amerine said. "We've cut out the mental mistakes and are playing better right now."
Jimmy DeButts is a sports writer for the Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at 706-724-0851.
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