AIKEN - South Aiken coach Dan Pippin found out what kind of character his team had Friday night.
Trailing 14-6 late in the fourth quarter, the Thoroughbreds faced a decision: lose for the second straight week on their home field, or find a way to rally for victory.
South Aiken chose the latter. The Thoroughbreds scored two touchdowns in the final five minutes to stave off an upset bid by Lower Richland for a 21-14 win at the Stomping Grounds.
"We thought it was a benchmark game for our program," Pippin said. "It could put us over the hump. Or, with young kids, you find out what kind of character you have.
"We found ours."
Going up against former South Aiken coach Gary Smallen - the school's first football coach and athletic director in the early 1980s - Pippin and the Thoroughbreds got all they could handle from the Diamond Hornets.
Tied at 6-6 at halftime, Lower Richland (1-2) dominated the third quarter and limited South Aiken (2-1) to just 10 yards of total offense.
The Diamond Hornets, took a 14-6 fourth-quarter lead on a two-yard run by Robert Dinkins and a two-point conversion pass.
On South Aiken's next play from scrimmage, quarterback Byron Bush fumbled away the ball, but the Thoroughbreds' defense held, and after an exchange of possessions South Aiken took over on Lower Richland's 40-yard line with just over six minutes left.
After three runs netted just seven yards, Pippin elected to go for it on fourth down. A pitch to Chris Fuller not only picked up the first down, but resulted in a touchdown. Fuller ran in the two-point conversion play to tie the score at 14.
Nathanial Powers set up South Aiken's go-ahead touchdown less than a minute later when he tipped a pass and caught it for an interception on Lower Richland's 20-yard line. Four plays later, Xavier Madison went up the middle from 12 yards out to give South Aiken the win.
Bush, who almost led his team to a come-from-behind win last week against Airport, was one of the players singled out for his leadership by Pippin.
"It was a total team effort," Bush said. "Things got kind of rough at the end of the first half. Adversity's going to happen, but you've got to strike back."
South Aiken dominated time of possession and total yardage for much of the first two periods, but that changed on the final play of the first half.
Lower Richland quarterback Travis Malloy connected with Newland Isaac on a post route over the middle of the field as time expired. Isaac shrugged off several tacklers and found his way into the end zone for a 52-yard scoring play to tie the score at the half.
Pippin said the Thoroughbreds need to take advantage of their scoring opportunities. Twice in the first half South Aiken was inside the Lower Richland 10-yard line, but had to settle for field goals both times.
"We didn't capitalize on those chances we had, but it shows a lot of character for our kids," he said. "Hopefully, it's a promise of things to come."
SOUTH AIKEN 21, LOWER RICHLAND 14
Lower Richland 0680-14
South Aiken 33015-21
SA-Chad Smith 25 FG, 1:44
SA-Smith 24 FG, 5:01
LR-Newland Isaac 52 pass from Travis Malloy (run failed), 0:00
LR-Robert Dinkins 2 run (Malloy pass to Michael Bryant), 1:38
SA-Chris Fuller 33 run (Fuller run), 4:39
SA-Xavier Madison 12 run (Smith kick), 1:43
LR -- SA
First Downs 1213
Passing Yards 15384
RUSHING-Lower Richland: Robert Dinkins 6-17, Travis Malloy 14-21, Arnold Benjamin 7-11, Keroy Miller 2-1, Michael Bryant 5-38. South Aiken: Wade Arnold 14-61, Byron Bush 12-27, Chris Fuller 5-47, Ross Philbeck 1-2, Xavier Madison 2-13, Brandy Franklin 1-28.
PASSING-Lower Richland: Travis Malloy 8-22-1 for 143 yards, Michael Bryant 1-1-0 for 10 yards. South Aiken: Byron Bush 9-16-0 for 84 yards.
RECEIVING-Lower Richland: Newland Isaac 3-82, Michael Bryant 3-44, Keroy Miller 1-7, Brian Hayes 1-13, Arnold Benjamin 1-7. South Aiken: Ross Philbeck 3-19, Brandy Franklin 4-19, Austin Collins 1-17, Mike Brown 1-29.
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