AIKEN - There were few surprises for Aiken coach Carey Johnson on Friday night at Louis K. Hagood Stadium - especially when it came to Zearrick Matthews of Greenwood.
The junior quarterback rushed 18 times for 171 yards and two touchdowns and completed six of 13 passes for 109 yards and another score in the Eagles' 37-27 victory. He accounted for 280 of Greenwood's 328 yards of offense.
Johnson recalled Matthews stinging the Hornets as a tailback in Aiken's 40-7 blowout loss last year. This time, the score was much tighter, but Matthews was no less dominant for Greenwood (3-2).
"We knew we had to contain him," Johnson said of Matthews. "We had to stop him to have a chance."
Despite their inability to limit Matthews' production, the Hornets (1-4) managed to keep the game close until the final period.
Bishop Scott completed a 28-yard bullet to Olajuwon Paige on Aiken's first possession, giving the Hornets a first down on the Greenwood 14. Two plays later, Scott punched it through on a 3-yard keeper to open the scoring.
After Aiken's botched extra point, Steven Metts of the Eagles converted two short field goals in the next 10:00 to tie the score at 6.
The final 2:30 of the first half presented the game's most intense drama.
Maurice Drew bolted into the end zone untouched on an 11-yard run to give Greenwood its first lead, at 13-6. Scott struck again for Aiken, sneaking in from a yard out to tie it at 13 with just 35 seconds left until halftime.
Then, the Hornet defense dozed off, allowing a 54-yard kickoff return by Steve Owings, an 11-yard completion and a 20-yard touchdown run by Matthews, all within 18 seconds. After that pivotal exchange, Greenwood entered the intermission ahead, 20-13.
"That was big," Eagles coach Shell Dula said. "Steve Owings had a great run, and we were able to get it in and score. Had (Aiken) gotten ahead at home, that would have hurt."
George Mathis and Olajuwon Paige provided some excitement for Aiken in the second half.
Mathis barreled left to score on a 24-yard run early in the third quarter.
A 45-yard touchdown pass to Ansel Scurry and a third field goal by Metts put Greenwood ahead, 30-20. Johnson then inserted Paige at quarterback, and he raced 69 yards for a touchdown on on his first play under center.
Matthews iced the victory for Greenwood, scoring the final touchdown on a 58-yard run with 4:23 left.
"They showed a lot of character and a lot of heart," Johnson said of his team. "They didn't give up at any time."