It was only fitting that Antwaun Carter and Reggie Merriweather -- two of the top running backs in the Palmetto State -- decided the outcome of Friday night's battle between North Augusta and South Aiken.
In one of the most explosive displays of offense in either school's history, the two players combined for 669 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. Merriweather's North Augusta Yellow Jackets bested Carter's South Aiken squad 53-50 in the Region 3-AAAA clash.
"I never have been a part of this in my life," North Augusta coach Joe Long said. "Reggie is phenomenal, and the touchdowns may be a record. We redeemed ourselves after Monday's loss, but we still have to work on our defense."
The outcome of the game wasn't decided until the young North Augusta (4-2) defense tamed the Thoroughbreds (4-2) on a fourth-and-8 on their own 31. Kyle Findley threw two incomplete passes in the closing seconds of the game to seal South Aiken's fate.
"Bad things happen to good people, and I told our kids they had nothing to hang their heads about," South Aiken's first-year coach Dan Pippin said. "Reggie had too much speed for us, and we had trouble stopping him. He may be the best running back I've ever seen."
Entering the game, Carter and Merriweather were one and two in the area in individual rushing. By night's end, Merriweather eclipsed Carter with an astonishing 369 yards on 30 carries and a career-high seven touchdowns.
"When some of our players went down with injuries, we knew we had to step up," Merriweather said. "The touchdowns and the yards are both firsts, and I hope that I can keep coming out every Friday and do that."
Carter finished with 300 yards on 40 carries with three touchdowns.
"The loss takes a little bit away from the individual game," Carter said. "I owe a lot to the offensive line; unfortunately we couldn't pull out the win."
On the season, Carter has 1,069 yards and eight touchdowns to Merriweather's 1,088 and 12 touchdowns.
"There was a lot of offense in this game," Long said. "Both offenses played well, and obviously there has to be some work done on the defense. My hat's off to Pippin; he has done a great job with that team."
By halftime, the score was 34-28 with both Carter and Merriweather rushing for 163 yards.
Merriweather rushed for touchdowns of 10, 32, 10, 21, 24, 51 and 17 yards. The 24- and 51-yard outbursts came after critical miscues by South Aiken's special teams.
Yellow Jackets punter Paul Villagran booted a 33-yarder that bounced and hit defender Quintis Reese on the leg. Then, Kris Negley was called for roughing the kicker, putting North Augusta in position for the kill.
"I'm not going to say our special teams lost us the game," Pippin said. "If we would have scored every time down the field, we would have won. They're kids, and they will make mistakes. That's how it goes sometimes."
Reach Miguelangelo Hernandez at (706) 823-3304 or firstname.lastname@example.org.