JOHNSTON, S.C.- The road to the South Carolina High School League Class AAA title just got tougher.
That's because Strom Thurmond, already a top contender, is now a bigger hurdle in everyone else's way.
The Rebels found another highlight hound in their offensive attack Friday during a 31-17 win against Silver Bluff, as reserve running back Jakar Hamilton scored three times and ran for 130 yards.
Hamilton started because of an illness to starter Tony Dugar, who missed practice Tuesday and didn't notify the team of any reason for his absence.
"Dugar has just got to learn a lesson," Strom Thurmond coach Lee Sawyer said. "Our policy is you miss a practice without calling and you don't play on Friday."
Enter Hamilton. The 175-pound junior is a dynamic basketball talent who transferred to Strom Thurmond this year.
"He's the fastest guy on our team," linebacker Kenneth Griffin said. "Not quick, but straight-ahead fast. He's the fastest."
Hamilton had touched the ball nine times this year and scored on five of those plays - even though two of them were called back.
Hamilton had 15 touches Friday in the meeting between the fourth-ranked teams in Class AAA and Class AA. His first score was perhaps the most prolific.
Down 7-0, he took a swing pass and turned up field.
Supposedly known for his speed, he did nothing short of stampede through the Silver Bluff cornerback who stood in his way.
But he quickly stepped aside from any starting controversy.
"I don't want Tony's spot," Hamilton said. "He'd be doing the exact same thing if he was in there. Tony's worked hard for his spot. It's his. He was coaching me up on the sidelines tonight. Heck, I barely know all our plays."
Dugar's influence benefitted Hamilton on his second touchdown.
"We ran this played called '20 Gut,' and Tony told me on the sidelines to just wait on it," Hamilton said. "I just took his advice."
Hamilton's skills add to an offensive package that's already lethal with the likes of quarterback Coco Hillary and receiver Justin Broadwater.
Hillary finished with just 19 rushing yards on 11 carries and 169 yards passing. He completed 12 of his 21 attempts. Broadwater had six catches for 75 yards.
After being held in check early on, Hillary found his groove on the third drive of the second half. The senior completed all four of his passes on an eight-play, 96-yard drive capped by a 32-yard Hamilton touchdown run.
"That's just what Strom Thurmond needs," Silver Bluff coach Al Lown said. "They find another one. That team has a lot of great athletes as it is already."
Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.