With as much offensive star power that Strom Thurmond and North Augusta placed on the field Friday night, it was each team's strategy to keep the other on the sideline.
But the Jackets stayed away from it far too long for the Rebels, turning two Rebel fumbles into a pair of touchdowns to down Strom Thurmond for the second straight season, 21-7.
Dream 16 running back Jamaal Johnson was the highlight of the night. If he wasn't pummeling would-be defenders, he was sprinting past them on his way to a convincing 169-yard rushing total, and two touchdowns on 27 carries.
Fellow Dream 16 member and teammate Anthony Young strayed from the air attack, but carried 10 times for 101 yards to go with 23 yards passing.
"The offense saved the day today," Jacket coach Joe Long said. "Jamaal Johnson ran like a man, and the offensive line did a good job blocking for him. Our defense struggled a little, but the offense did a great job of staying on the field."
Leading 7-0 after the first half, North Augusta came out airing it with Young connecting with Jay Harvey for a quick 11-yard strike. Instead of keeping it in the air, the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder tried his hand at dodging, weaving down the side line for 41 yards to Strom Thurmond's seven-yard line.
On the next play with Rebel defenders well in the backfield before Young handed the snap to Johnson, the senior running back broke the first tackle, proceeded to break the next two before high-stepping into the end zone for a 14-0 lead in the third quarter.
"We came out a little banged up, my hip was hurting, but I knew I couldn't let the team down," Johnson said. "Everybody was blocking on the line, and the entire team came out and showed heart. I loved it, and I'm looking forward to a great season."
But just as the Jackets have star power, so do the Rebels. Young broke a quarterback sneak for what would have been another 40-yard trot, but a hit from behind caused him to fumble, turning it over to Thurmond.
Dream 16 team member Antwaun Hillary carried most of the load on the Rebels' drive with a 15-yard scamper to put the Rebels on North Augusta's 3-yard line. Two plays later, the senior quarterback rolled down the line, catching a corner for the score, cutting the lead to 14-7 midway through the third.
Hillary finished an off-night, completing 5 of 10 passes for 59 yards. Running back Daryl Hillary was the work horse for the Rebels, carrying 19 times for 102 yards.
But Thurmond, who had two costly fumbles in last year's 19-0 defeat in Edgefield, suffered the same fate, losing the ball on their own 21-yard-line with 2:21 left in the third. It didn't take long for Johnson to break to the outside three plays later for the 11-yard touchdown, making it 21-7 going into the fourth.
The Jackets first got on the board after Eric Tolen fumbled deep in North Augusta territory. From their own five-yard line, the Jackets drove 95 yards with Willie Mays dashing for an 18-yard touchdown run.
Johnson ran Rebel defenders dizzy, jerking and sprinting his way to 126 first half rushing yards on 16 carries.
Strom Thurmond -- 0 0 7 0 -- 7
North Augusta -- 7 0 14 0 -- 21
NA -- Willie Mays 18 run (Mike Mahoney kick)
NA -- Jamaal Johnson 7 run (Mahoney kick)
ST -- Antwaun Hillary 3 run (kick)
NA -- Johnson 11 run (Mahoney kick)
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