The Andrew Jackson Volunteers defeated the Barnwell Warhorses, 41-14, at the Battlefield, punching their ticket to the Lower State championship.
The 11-2 Vols tied the school record for wins in a season and extended its school record-winning streak to 11 with the win Friday, Nov. 18.
Andrew Jackson High School will now face No. 1 Oceanside Collegiate for the 2A Lower State Championship. “We played a complete game,” said Andrew Jackson head coach Todd Shigley. “I am proud of our kids. The defense stepped up an extra notch and the offense executed the game plan. “I feel like we are getting better each week, but we need to keep working hard and execute as we are one win away from the state championship game.”
Barnwell High School (12-1) marched down the field on the opening drive to take a 7-0 lead that was capped by a 3-yard run by Tyler Smith. The 75-yard drive took 14 plays and 6:50 off the clock. Smith carried the ball 10 times for 56 yards on the drive.
The Vols looked to respond, but two negative plays kept the momentum with the Warhorses and gave the ball back to Barnwell. On third and 10 at their own 34, Andrew Jackson senior linebacker Fuller Sims returned the ball 30 yards for the score after intercepting quarterback Cameron Austin. Tyson Funderburk’s extra point tied it the score at 7-7, with 46.7 seconds left in the quarter.
On the next drive, Cullen Ussery intercepted his seventh pass on the season, but the Vols turned it right back over on a fumble. The Warhorses were unable to take advantage of the field position, but pinned the Andrew Jackson offense inside its own 10 with 6:27 remaining in the half.
The Vols’ running game started to warm up with Trey Thompson and Hammond Wrenn as they marched 92 yards to take a 14-7 lead before halftime. The drive was keyed by Wrenn’s mobility, who had 64 yards on three carries. The possession was capped by Thompson’s 6-yard run.
Ussery took the opening kickoff of the second half 79 yards, but it was called back due to a holding call around the 50. Thompson found the end zone four plays later on a 48-yard run.
Thompson’s yardage on the series helped him break the school’s single-season record for rushing yards by Antonio Sowell in 1997. Thompson finished the game with 123 yards, for a total of 2,406 yards on the season.
The Volunteers’ defense on the next play forced a fumble that was recovered by Kolby Waters. Wrenn found the end zone and Funderburk’s extra point put the Vols up 28-7. Wrenn found the end zone again on the next drive to add to the lead. He finished the game with 100 yards on 12 carries.
The Warhorses continued to go to Smith on the ground, but he coughed up the football for the second time that night. This time, Weston Joyner returned it 47 yards to give the Vols a 41-7 lead, with 3:38 left in the third.
Smith entered Friday’s contest with nearly 2,800 yards rushing, and averaging 232 yards per game on 10.3 yards per attempt. The Vols’ defense held Smith to 96 yards on 23 carries with 40 yards coming on 13 attempts after Barnwell’s opening drive.
The Andrew Jackson defense forced its fifth turnover on the night with a Banks Helms interception. The Warhorses, who scored at least 33 points in each of its first 12 games, added a fourth quarter touchdown to increase their total. “We played our best game of the year on defense,” Shigley said. “Barnwell has an explosive offense. The pick six by Fuller Sims was a momentum-changing play. Fuller is a smart player. He watches a ton of film and knows where to be. That play set the tone for the rest of the night.”
The road to the 2A State Championship goes through Kershaw as the Vols host the Oceanside Landsharks at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 25.
The winner will play the Abbeville-Saluda winner at 2 p.m. Dec. 2 for the 2A State Championship at Charles W. Johnson Stadium in Columbia.
“We tied the school record for 11 wins and we are going to enjoy it, but we want more,” Shigley said. “Oceanside is a really good team. It is going to be another big challenge for our team.”