BISHOPVILLE - Thomas Sumter Academy's varsity football team was looking to follow up on its 58-27 victory over Williamsburg Academy last week when it traveled to McCutchen Field on Friday to face Robert E. Lee Academy.
However, due to an explosive and productive offensive attack, the Cavaliers quickly took away any hopes of a TSA upset as it won a one-sided shootout 69-44.
"We came out clicking tonight," said REL head coach, whose team improved to 9-2 on the season and finished 5-1 and in second in SCISA Region II-2A. "I was very pleased with our offense tonight."
Thomas Sumter finished 3-8 and 1-5 and will miss the state playoffs. Generals head coach Troy Kessinger expressed gratitude for his seniors playing their final game.
"Our seniors never quit on us, and I can't be more proud of those guys," Kessinger said.
Lee received the opening kickoff and started at its 46-yard line. The Cavaliers struck on the first play from scrimmage with a 54-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Bryce Barrett to wide receiver Nick Laney for a 7-0 lead with 11:37 left in the first quarter.
This connection would find the end zone again when Barrett hit Laney for a 13-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-0 with 5:10 left in the first quarter.
The Generals responded immediately when Dante Linder returned the ensuing kickoff 79 yards for a touchdown to put Thomas Sumter on the scoreboard and cut the Cavaliers' lead to 14-7.
The Cavaliers started at the TSA 41 and was in the end zone in four plays. Barrett scored on a 14-yard run. A failed PAT attempt left the score at 20-7 at the end of the first quarter.
What proved to be a somewhat high-scoring first quarter would be trumped by a second quarter which saw the teams score a combined six touchdowns.
The Generals found the end zone twice, once off of a 13-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Eli Kessinger to wide receiver at the beginning of the quarter and another pass from Kessinger, this time to wide receiver Richard Huntley toward the end of the half.
However, Laney proved to be dominant, scoring three touchdowns, once on a 64-yard kickoff return and twice on TD passes from Barrett. Lee's other score in the quarter was a 1-yard touchdown run from running back Dustin Kennedy. REL went into halftime with a 49-21 win.
Huntley scored two touchdowns in the third quarter, once on a 32-yard touchdown pass from Kessinger and another pm a 5-yard run. Thomas Sumter's defense also picked up a safety.
REL's Hunter McGee scored on both offense and defense in the second half. He had a 53-yard touchdown run and another and returned an interception 70 yards for score to make it 62-37.
TSA's final score came on an 83-yard TD reception by Huntley.
REL, which was the runner-up in 2A last season, will open the playoffs at home on Friday against the passing attack of Hilton Head Christian. When asked what the mindset was for his team going into practice next week, Rankin said, "We have to play better pass defense. (Hilton Head Christian) can really throw the ball."
When asked what his goals for the TSA program were during the offseason, Coach Kessinger said, "(Getting) bigger, faster, stronger, you name it. We also to have make this younger group coming up more committed."