By TOM O’HARE
Special to the Sumter Item
LITTLE RIVER – Crestwood High School’s football season came to an end on Friday in the second round of the 4A state playoffs against North Myrtle Beach, but the Knights did not go down easy to the undefeated Chiefs.
The Knights battled back from a 28-7 second-quarter deficit to pull to within 35-28 in the fourth quarter and came within inches from getting the ball back in the closing minutes with a chance to tie the game. However, the Chiefs barely converted on fourth down and one yard to go from the Crestwood 38 with 2:43 left in the game and NMB scored a touchdown in the closing minute on a 5-yard run by Ramsey Lewis to claim a 42-28 victory.
Crestwood ends the season at 6-6, while North Myrtle Beach, which improvee to 12-0, will face Berkeley in the quarterfinals next Friday.
“Our guys gave it all they had, but we came up a little short, so hat’s off to North Myrtle Beach,” said Crestwood head coach Roosevelt Nelson. “We played hard, but North Myrtle Beach has a complete team and a lot of weapons.”
North Myrtle Beach wasted little time getting on the scoreboard against the Knights, moving 60 yards for a touchdown on the game’s opening drive. Halfback Kered Class ripped off runs of 13 and 16 yards before scoring on a 6-yard dash. Zane Smith added the extra point to make it 7-0 with 9:21 left in the first quarter.
When the Knight took over, quarterback Anthony Bradley connected with wide receiver Joshua Simon on a short pass over the middle. Simon then broke several tackles before getting hauled down at the Chiefs 28. However, the drive ended four plays later when Bradley, facing a fourth-and-16 at the 36, stepped over the line of scrimmage before finding Simon open at the 4-yard line. Bradley’s miscue resulted in a penalty for an illegal forward pass, turning the ball over on downs to the Chiefs.
After the Knights defense forced a punt, Crestwood moved 85 yards in 12 plays to tie the score. The final play of the drive was a 23-yard touchdown pass from Bradley to Montrell White. Gavyn Zimmerman added the point-after to make it 7-7 with 4:09 left in the opening stanza.
“That was big, tying the game after they took the early lead,” said Nelson. “That seemed to settle us down some.”
Most of the second quarter belonged to North Myrtle Beach though. Class scored his second touchdown of the game on the first play of the second quarter on a 24-yard scamper to make it 14-7. Class added a 30-yard touchdown on the Chiefs’ next drive to stretch the lead to 21-7 with 9:10 left in the quarter. On the Chiefs next possession, quarterback Cason McClendon connected with Tyler Gore on a 30-yard touchdown pass to make it 28-7.
Crestwood was able to pull to within 28-14 with 2:01 left until halftime when Bradley and White hooked up for their second touchdown of the game, a 63-yard completion.
The second half did not begin well for the Knights, with Bradley getting picked off by Naseem Harrison at the CHS 42 on the half’s opening drive. However, the Knights defense forced a punt following the interception.
“We talked to our defense that we were going to need them to come up with some big stops to help us out and they did that after we had that turnover, which kept us in the game,” said Nelson.
After getting the ball back, the Knights used a 10-yard touchdown run by Maleeke Bradley to get to within 28-21 with 6:10 left in the third quarter.
Adding to the Knights’ second-half hopes was the fact that Class, who rushed for three touchdowns in the first half, would spend the final two quarters on the sidelines with a hamstring issue.
Momentum swung even stronger in Crestwood’s direction when on North Myrtle Beach’s next possession, McClendon fumbled while back in the pocket at the Chiefs 40. Christopher Simon recovered for the Knights, but four straight incompletions after the turnover handed the ball back to North Myrtle Beach, keeping the score 28-21.
North Myrtle Beach grabbed some breathing room in the middle of the fourth quarter when McClendon threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Tyron Stockdale to put the Chiefs up 35-21. The Knights responded with a nine play, 90-yard drive that ended with Anthony Bradley throwing a 15-yard touchdown to Maleeke Bradley with 5:26 left in the contest that narrowed the score to 35-28.
With 2:43 left on the clock, the Chiefs faced a fourth-and-one at the Crestwood 38, and after calling a timeout, North Myrtle Beach head coach Matt Reels decided to go for the first down. For the first time in the game, McClendon went under center to take the snap, and after a measurement, the referees rules that McClendon had picked up the inches needed to get a first down.
“There was never any hesitation we would go for it there,” said Reels. “I was 100 percent sure he made it. I knew it was going to happen before we snapped the football.”
Nelson thought McClendon had come up short.
“I thought he got a favorable spot,” Nelson said. “But sometimes it comes down to inches.”
After converting on fourth down, the Chiefs put the game on ice with Lewis’ TD.
“We continued to improve throughout this season and got to the second round of the playoffs, which was a big step for the program,” Nelson said. “I can’t fault the team for how hard we played tonight.”