SHS shuts down Screven and 22 game winning streak

Friday at Swainsboro High School was no ordinary day. Tension was high as the Tigers prepared to travel to Screven County for the biggest game of the year thus far.

Coming off a confidence booster at home against Savannah Christian, they seemed ready for what was in store.

"We're going to win. I'm ready for everything they've got," said senior linebacker Tavares Jones before the game.

The coaches and players talked all week about how much different the Gamecock offense was than anything they had seen all year.

"They use a Wing-T, which is what we used last year. It is a complicated offense that moves too slow for our defense. I believe we will shut it down," said senior free safety Justin Moore.

When asked what he thought the key to the game was, senior strong safety Raja Andrews said, "They have two very good running backs. Stopping them will be big. Momentum is the key to this game. As long as everyone does their job we should win."

The Tiger defense has been tough all year allowing only eight points per game on average until the Screven contest. Though, on average the Tigers outscored their previous opponents 22-8, scoring points was Swainsboro's main pre-game concern.

"We've got to go out there and stick with what has gotten us to this point," said offensive coordinator Brandon Jernigan.

When asked what he thought would be the Tigers key to putting points on the board, senior tailback Albert Webb said, "We're going to play like a team and stick together like a family. We've got coaches we believe in and trust. We just need to continue to do what they tell us to do."

When game time finally arrived, Tiger coaches sent all of their seniors out on the field as captains though only Jones and Webb went in for the coin toss.

The Tigers won the toss and elected to defer the choice to the second half. When the remainder of the Swainsboro squad entered the field, a playoff-like air filled Kelley Memorial Stadium as number one ranked (7-0) Screven County Gamecocks and number eight (4-0-2) Swainsboro Tigers prepared for battle.

The game began on a deep opening kickoff by Cason DeVane that fell short of the end zone by only a few steps. The first quarter flew by as neither team was able to score and both teams were forced to punt twice.

In the second quarter the Tiger defense shut down Screven's offensive attack allowing only one first down and forcing two punts. They held the opposing offense to -12 yards rushing in the second quarter with lots of help from Corey Johnson who recorded two quarterback sacks in that quarter alone. The Tigers took possession and drove down deep into Gamecock territory. Leon Williams took a handoff from DeVane at the 10-yard line of Screven into the end zone for a Tiger touchdown and the first points of the night. DeVane's extra point was good as the Tigers pulled ahead of the number one Gamecocks 7-0 with 5:45 left in the first half.

Swainsboro was able to score once again before the half on a successful fumble-rooskie attempt that put Dustin Way in the end zone. Just before the Tiger extra point team came set over the ball Screven County Head Coach Mark Daniel came out to discuss the play with officials. After deliberating on the ruling for some time officials ruled that the play was illegally conducted. (To legally run the fumble-rooskie when the ball is snapped it must touch the quarterback's hands before another player can take possession. Officials ruled that mandatory contact between the ball and DeVane's hands never took place.) The touchdown was called back and the Tigers were penalized five yards for illegal procedure. Disappointed but not discouraged, the Tigers lined up to attempt a 36-yard field goal. DeVane drilled the field goal and put the Tigers up 10-0, which is the way the half ended.

Swainsboro came out in the third quarter looking ready for more action. Webb, who tallied up 87 yards in the first half, tore through the Gamecock defense for 46 yards in the third quarter. Johnson had another strong quarter adding two more sacks to his growing total for the night that reached five by the end of the game. Neither team scored in the third quarter. Screven attempted a 41-yard field goal that was partially blocked by none other than Corey Johnson. At the end of three, the score remained Swainsboro 10, Screven 0.

Swainsboro had a great crowd all night that got loud at times, but when the fourth quarter began fans, players, coaches, announcers and everyone else at Kelley Memorial Stadium began to feel like Screven's 22-game winning streak was nearing its end. The "Wreckin' Crew" held the Screven offense once again for zero points to ice the 10-0 victory over the undefeated Gamecocks. Webb carried the ball for 62 yards in the fourth quarter.

At the sound of the final buzzer, Tiger fans rushed the field to celebrate the victory with the players. When asked to comment on the outcome of the game, Jones simply said "I told you, boy, I told you."

Webb led the Tigers in rushing yards with 201 yards on 37 carries for an average of 5.4 yards per carry. Webb's total for the year is 1108 yards.

J.J. Nobles had 21 yards on four carries for an average of 5.3 yards per carry. DeVane was 2-4 passing for 15 yards as Swainsboro recorded 229 total offensive yards.

The real story of the night was the Tiger defense's stellar performance. They held Screven County running backs Michael Scott and James Howard who had tallied up over 1,300 yards rushing for the season, combined to 53 yards on the ground. Johnson led the Tiger defense with 7.5 tackles and five sacks. Raja Andrews had five tackles as did Jones. Leroy Ball recorded 4.5 tackles. Justin Moore had three tackles including a nasty hit on a Gamecock receiver that forced a key fumble and a Swainsboro recovery. The Swainsboro defense restricted the Gamecocks to 119 total offense yards for the game.

Swainsboro moves to number two in the Atlanta Journal Constitution AAA state poll behind Peach County who has one loss this season. Gainesville is number three in the poll; Washington County takes over the number four spot as Screven County falls to number five. Swainsboro and Gainesville are the only teams in AAA that remain unbeaten.

The Tigers will take their big win and fresh 5-0-2 record back home this week against Appling County who is tied for the third spot in region 2AAA with South Effingham. The game will begin at 7:30 pm. --

(Statistics courtesy of Jerry Lawson, Jerry Lawson Jr. and Danny "The Stat Cat" Henry.)

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