MANNING, S.C. - On the way to its state semifinal matchup with Laurence Manning, Augusta Christian made a stop at Oliver C. Dawson Stadium in Orangeburg, S.C., where the South Carolina Independent School Association state football championship game will be played.
"We visited it just to see where we're trying to go," senior Kyle Meeks said.
"We sat in the stands. The coaches wouldn't let us walk on the field. They wouldn't let us get that close yet."
Next Friday, Augusta Christian will get its chance to play on the South Carolina State University football field after a 21-14 victory over Laurence Manning on Friday night put the Lions in the state title game.
Augusta Christian junior quarterback Tyler Bourdo led the Lions with two touchdown passes against one of the biggest defensive teams they've faced.
"They were big, one of the best defensive lines we've played all year long," lineman Bo Phillips said. "They had the size and speed, but we wanted it more."
The home team's oversized defensive line stopped Augusta Christian's run-first offense for most of the first quarter.
The Lions finally broke through with a 13-play, 78-yard scoring drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown dive by Meeks early in the second quarter.
Augusta Christian extended to a two-touchdown lead later in the quarter when Bourdo scrambled around until he found freshman Evans Wells on a 10-yard touchdown pass.
"That was a great pass. He's always running for his life back there, and I was actually surprised he got that one off," Meeks said.
Laurence Manning countered with an 80-yard scoring drive that cut Augusta Christian's lead to 14-7 at halftime.
The Lions scored their final touchdown on their first possession of the second half on a 51-yard touchdown pass from Bourdo to tight end Josh Whitaker.
The score was the difference despite a Laurence Manning touchdown later in the quarter and sent the defending SCISA state champion Lions back to the title game.
"This was a tremendous win for our program," Augusta Christian head coach Bruce Lane said. "To lose all those kids last year, but still get back to Orangeburg is a testament to what we want our program to be."
Reach Billy Byler at (706) 863-6165 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
AUGUSTA CHRISTIAN 21, LAURENCE MANNING 14
PLAY OF THE GAME
: Augusta Christian quarterback Tyler Bourdo was nearly out of room as he scrambled toward the Laurence Manning bench to avoid tacklers midway through the second quarter. At the last possible moment, he fired the ball 10 yards to a cutting Evan Wells for the Lions second touchdown of the game and a 14-0 lead.
WHY AUGUSTA CHRISTIAN WON: The Lions made more big plays. Augusta Christian's defense grabbed an interception that led to a touchdown and the offense scored on a 51-yard breakaway catch and run by senior Josh Whitaker. Laurence Manning never gained more than 27 yards on a single play.
WHY LAURENCE MANNING LOST: The Swampcats lost their composure when they needed it most. At least three flags flew for unsportsmanlike conduct calls against Laurence Manning on the final play of the game. An assistant coach was also ejected for threatening an official.
STAR OF THE GAME: Bourdo came through in one of the biggest games of his life. The junior threw for two touchdowns and converted a busted play into a 12-yard gain on third down to keep an eventual scoring drive alive.
WHAT'S NEXT: Augusta Christian will face the Hammond in the SCISA Class AAA state finals next Friday at Oliver C. Dawson Stadium in Orangeburg, S.C.