DUNCAN, S.C. - Aiken succeeded in slowing down the best prep football team in South Carolina on Friday night for the better part of two quarters.
But it wasn't enough to overcome Byrnes, which knocked the Hornets out of the playoffs for the second year in a row with a 42-14 win at Nixon Field.
The Rebels scored 21 points in the final eight minutes of the second quarter, using some trickery and big plays from its skill players to break open a close game on a chilly night in the Upstate.
The Rebels (14-0) won their 24th consecutive game and landed a berth in next week's Class AAAA Division II championship game at Williams-Brice Stadium. Byrnes will be going for its fourth consecutive championship against Richland Northeast, which beat Spring Valley, 14-7 on Friday night.
With the score tied at 7, Byrnes coach Bobby Bentley turned to a trick play for a quick score. Quarterback Willy Korn threw to Daniel Barton, his backup, who in turn threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Jamar Anderson.
The Hornets appeared to have Byrnes pinned deep in their own territory late in the first half, but Korn threw a strike to Anderson. Aiken defender Taikwon Paige slipped on the play, and Anderson raced into the end zone for an 87-yard score.
Byrnes got the ball back with 38 seconds left in the half, and it took only three plays to get into the end zone. Korn found Anderson for a 47-yard gain, then scrambled two yards and ran out of bounds to stop the clock. On the next play, Korn threw a shovel pass to Prince Miller and he scooted into the end zone for a 14-yard score.
"We were trying some different formations and that gave our quarterback some problems early,'' Byrnes coach Bobby Bentley said. "But give Aiken credit.''
Korn, a junior who has already committed to play at Clemson, threw for three touchdowns and 268 yards. His slow start gave way to big numbers, which isn't surprising since he now has 52 touchdown passes for the season.
Miller, who will play at Georgia next year, scored the game's first touchdown when he scooped up an Aiken fumble and raced 42 yards for the touchdown. He also caught a scoring pass in the third quarter to give him three touchdowns on the night.
"They made the big plays and we didn't,'' Aiken coach Carey Johnson said. "Our kids played hard.''
The Hornets (12-2) entered the contest with a nine-game winning streak but could not keep up with Byrnes, which is rated No. 11 in the nation by USA Today.
A year ago, Byrnes came to Aiken and eliminated the Hornets from the playoffs with a 56-29 decision. The margin was similar this year, but Aiken had the home team nervous after the first quarter ended in a 7-7 tie.
Aiken quarterback Brett Williamson scored both of the Hornets' touchdowns on short sneaks up the middle.
A disappointed Williamson said after the game that the team could have played better. He finished the night 4-for-15 for 69 yards and an interception.
"I'm not satisfied because we didn't get the W,'' he said.
The last team to beat Byrnes was Gaffney, which defeated Rebels 12-10 early in the 2004 season. Gaffney also gave Byrnes its closest game of 2005, but still lost 30-10.
Byrnes came into the game averaging 52.6 points per contest and had scored 50 or more points in eight of their 11 regular-season contests. Laurens and York were unable to slow the Rebels down very much in the first two rounds of the playoffs as the Rebels scored 45 points in each game.
Reach John Boyette at (706) 823-3337 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aiken 7 0 0 7 - 14
Byrnes 7 21 7 7 - 42
B-Prince Miller 42 fumble return (Cam Miller kick), 7:49
A-Brett Williamson 3 run (Schuyler Reardon kick), 1:30
B-Jamar Anderson 33 pass from Daniel Barton (Miller kick), 7:46
B-Anderson 87 pass from Willy Korn (Miller kick), 2:13
B-Miller 14 pass from Korn (Miller kick), :12
B-Miller 16 pass from Korn (Miller kick), 4:36
A-Williamson 2 run (Reardon kick), 9:41
B-Derek Young 3 run (Miller kick), 8:49
First Downs 22 20
Rushes-Yards 55-240 25-185
Passing Yards 69 358
Comp.-Att.-Int. 4-15-1 13-19-1
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 2-1
Punts-Yards 5-34 2-39
Penalties-Yards 4-40 6-65
RUSHING-Aiken: Marquette Gilliam 14-50, Larry Glover 3-6, Brett Williamson 12-40, Romon Williams 19-122, Nytavious Burgess 6-27, Taikwon Paige 1-(-5). Byrnes: Willy Korn 10-39, Derek Young 7-87, Prince Miller 3-29.
PASSING-Aiken: Brett Williamson 4-15-1 for 69 yards. Byrnes: Willy Korn 11-17-1 for 268 yards, Daniel Barton 2-2-0 for 90 yards.
RECEIVING-Aiken: Taikwon Paige 2-15, Nytavious Burgess 1-36, Darien Crawford 1-18. Byrnes: Cam Foster 1-11, Prince Miller 2-30, Brian Gaston 2-14, Jamar Anderson 4-168, Antonio Snoddy 1-57, Matt Quinn 1-47.