The Marlboro County-Northwestern fiasco was resolved in the nick of time Thursday. A day later, North Augusta suffered the consequences.
As a result of the final decision by the South Carolina High School League's executive committee to banish the two schools from the 2002 Class AAAA playoffs, North Augusta was forced to play an all-too-familiar foe in the first round.
This stroke of bad luck gave way to a 35-13 loss to Conway, the same team the Yellow Jackets fell to during the 2001 playoff opener.
"Conway is probably the strongest team in the Lower State," North Augusta coach Joe Long said. "They had their entire team back (from last year), and we knew it would be a tough game for us."
Bobby Wallace rushed for 185 yards on 19 carries, scoring on bursts of 72 and 56 yards in the second quarter, to lead Conway.
Conway led 6-0 at the end of the first quarter, after an 8-yard touchdown run by Melvin Singleton. The Tigers scored two touchdowns in a one-minute span early in the second period to put North Augusta away.
Wallace rumbled 72 yards down the sideline and ran in a two-point conversion to put Conway ahead 14-0. Two plays into North Augusta's ensuing drive, Allen Patrick intercepted an Aundre Young pass, giving the Tigers the ball at the Jackets' 47. Duran Lawson threw the first of his two touchdown passes, a 47-yard strike to Tramaine Hunter, on the next play.
Wallace's second touchdown run gave Conway a 28-7 lead at halftime.
Injuries had plagued North Augusta all season, and the bug bit the Jackets again Friday night. Martise Quiller, who finished the year with 1,435 yards rushing, went down late in the first quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. Walter Utley stepped in and scored North Augusta's first touchdown on a 1-yard run in the second quarter, but he was held to 22 yards rushing.
Conway limited the Jackets to 123 total yards.
"Losing Martise hurt us," Long said. "That deflated us the rest of the game. Walt had to play both ways all game."
North Augusta had also lost quarterback Frayne Abernathy, running back Elbert Walker and guard John Havird to season-ending injuries earlier in the year.
Despite fumbling twice earlier in the game, Young, a junior who moved to quarterback from wide receiver to replace Abernathy, showed promise for next season by taking the Jackets 93 yards on the game's final drive almost single-handedly. Young scored on a 3-yard run to end the contest.
North Augusta did not allow a first down to Conway in the second half.
"We finished the game on a positive note," Long said. "I'm really proud of them. They came back from so much adversity."
Reach Lane Kramer at (803) 648-1395, Ext. 106.