AIKEN -Aiken senior Kenyata Smith lay on the ground, his left ankle in his hands and a grimace on his face. His teammate, Bishop Scott, wasn't worried.
The Hornets only led by three points asone of the team's spiritual leaders hobbled off the field, but Scott knew one thing Laurens didn't: Aiken was going to win the game.
His prophecy was as accurate as his passing.
In his first varsity start, the junior quarterback made a strong debut, completing seven of 10 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown, and Aiken's defense shut down the Raiders in the second half to pull away for a 24-7 win Friday night at Hagood Stadium.
Now, the Hornets (1-0) have to worry about what they're going to do without Smith, who broke his left ankle.
"I have to take a leadership role now," Scott said. 'That's the way it's got to be. (When Scott went down), I knew we had to pull together. When he went down, we knew we had to pick ourselves back up."
That's exactly what the Hornets did.
Leading a feisty Laurens (0-1) team 10-7 at halftime, Aiken played ferocious defense and limited Raiders standout fullback Eric Sullivan to nine yards on three carries in the last two quarters.
The Aiken offense - including Scott - benefited.
"He came in and played heads up," Aiken coach Carey Johnson said. "He didn't make any mental mistakes or have any turnovers. That's a big key for us, not giving the other team any opportunities."
Instead, the Hornets took them all.
On defense, Jeff Simpkins scooped up a fumble on the Laurens 15-yard line and picked off a pass as time expired. The offense was equally relentless.
Starting all but one of their second half possessions inside the Raiders' 40-yard line, Aiken strung together two touchdowns in an eight-minute span in the third quarter to put the game out of reach.
"The defense was real big for us in the second half," said Simpkins, also who caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Scott. "They had a fullback running the ball real well. We stopped him in the second half."
Accomplishing that without Smith impressed Johnson.
"The kids did a great job of picking it up," Johnson said. "We lost a key senior, and the kids did an outstanding job without him.
"There was probably only three or four teams playing in the state tonight," Johnson joked. "This was a key win, because this puts us up as one of the top three teams in the state."
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