Skyhawks flying to Orangeburg again
Hammond quarterback Cliff Ayers completed only seven passes on Saturday night at Edens Stadium but only one really mattered, a 66- yard game- winning touchdown to Kyle George with just under four minutes left in the third quarter. With the 13- 10 victory over Pinewood Prep, the Skyhawks will play for their third consecutive SCISA- 3A state title on Friday November 21 at South Carolina State University's Oliver Dawson Stadium in Orangeburg.
Running their no-huddle, audible- driven offense, Hammond dominated possession in the first quarter. Determined running by Brad Meredith, who ran for 211 yards on the night, and George drove the Skyhawks from their own two- yard line to the 30- yard line of the Panthers. But an incompletion on fourth down gave Pinewood Prep the ball after the six minute Hammond drive.
Panther quarterback Bruce Haynes tried on a number of occasions to throw deep, sideline passes to star wideout Laquan Gilliard, but each one fell incomplete. Getting the ball back after a Panther punt, Hammond went to work with a long pass play to Taylor Smith, a 14- yard run by Meredith and an 11- yard quarterback sweep by Ayers. Meredith's five- yard touchdown run with 11:00 left in the half gave the Skyhawks a 6- 0 lead, but their extra point sailed wide left.
Neither team could manage much by way of sustained offense for the remainder of the half with the score stuck on 7- 6 in favor of the visitors.
Pinewood Prep briefly abandoned its largely ineffective deep passing attempts in favor of a bruising running attack in the third quarter. Runs by Melvin Lesure and Moses Richardson powered through the Hammond defense with Richardson's 37- yard rumble as the highlight of the drive. The Skyhawks finally did stop the ground gains, forcing a 33- yard Tony Artman field goal by the Panthers which gave Pinewood Prep a 10- 6 lead.
Haynes then intercepted Ayers on the next drive giving the Panthers another chance to extend their fragile lead. Haynes found Gilliard on a 17- yard slant, but the Hammond defense held, forcing an incompletion on fourth down from the Skyhawks' 22- yard line.
Despite solid running success throughout, Hammond had yet to find a big play. Ayers changed that when he dropped back and found George streaking down the right sideline. Outrunning the last defender, George galloped into the end zone, giving Hammond the lead back with just 3:50 left in the third quarter.
Pinewood Prep did themselves no favors with back- to- back fumbles at the end of the third quarter, allowing Hammond to run down the clock.
The Skyhawks were able to get close enough for a 30- yard field goal attempt with 8:00 left in the game but the kick was wide left, leaving the score at 13- 10.
Hammond's defense forced a punt with 5:34 to play, and the offense did not relinquish the ball the rest of the game. Meredith carried for several big first downs as the Panthers ran out of timeouts and the ability to stop the clock. Ayers took a knee to end the hard- fought semifinal and send the Skyhawks back to the state championship game.