CHAPIN – Crestwood High School's 4A football first-round playoff game on Friday at Chapin High's Cecil Woodbright Field could not have gotten off to a much worse start for the Knights.
Crestwood's defense held the Eagles to three downs and out on the game's first possession, but the first two offensive plays for the Knights resulted in lost fumbles deep in Crestwood territory. The first was cashed in by Chapin on a 20-yard pass from quarterback Larob Gordon to Taison Thomas, with the Crestwood defense holding and forcing a punt on the second after the Eagles took over at the Crestwood 29.
Chapin added a score on a 9-play, 80-yard drive, with Larob Gordon and wide receiver Xzavion Gordon hooking up on a 34-yard pass early in the drive and a 15-yarder for the score, putting the Eagles up 14-0 with 4:37 left in the opening quarter.
The Eagles would not score again and Crestwood would overcome the shaky start and reach the end zone four times for a 28-14 win that sends the Knights into a second-round matchup at North Myrtle Beach on Friday
"I told them before the game (to) have windshield mentality. Do not look back at the negative on the next play. Just stack good play on top of good play," Crestwood head coach Roosevelt Nelson said of the key to his team's comeback win. "We were coming into a hostile environment against a good Chapin team that's scoring a lot of points, but I think our kids hung in there and they kept on fighting the whole game."
The Eagles, won finished in a 3-way tie for first in Region V with Dreher and Lower Richland and entered the playoffs as a No. 2 seed, end their campaign with a 7-4 record while Crestwood moves to 6-5. The 14 points by Chapin tied a season-low that the Eagles matched in a 21-14 loss to Newberry.
Wide receiver Joshua Simon was once again a key to Crestwood's success, hauling in six catches for 175 yards and a score. That score was a game changer as it came three plays after Chapin's second score, with quarterback Anthony Bradley hitting Simon in stride down the right sidelines for 75 yards.
The end of the first half created another momentum-shifting chain of events, with Crestwood blocking a 40-yard field goal attempt from Alex Nelson with 1:18 on the clock. The Knights took over at their 20 and drove 80 yards in seven plays, with Bradley and Montrell White accounting for half the yards on a 40-yard pass play. Bradley ran for 16 yards to the 2 with 19 seconds left in the half and had two cracks at running it in from there. The Eagle defenses held on the first, but Bradley was able to cross the line with no time on the clock to pull Crestwood within one.
Gavyn Zimmerman's point-after kick was wide right, leaving Chapin with a 14-13 lead, but the Knights were riding a heavy wave of momentum heading into the locker room.
"We knew we had an opportunity. We knew we had a chance," Nelson said of the feeling heading into the break. "We were down by 14 (early), but we got our feet underneath us, we settled down and there wasn't much correction or suggestions made at halftime. I just challenged the guys to empty the bucket, give it all you've got for the next two quarters. We challenged them to come out there and bust their tails, and that's exactly what they did."
Crestwood's third possession of the second half would prove to be fruitful as Bardley capped a 9-play, 80-yard drive with his second 1-yard scoring run of the game. Bradley then passed to White for the 2-point conversion and a 21-14 Knights lead with 1:19 to go in the third quarter.
Crestwood's final score of the night came after a Chapin miscue on a Javarius Bradley punt. After a 3-and-out defensive stop at the Crestwood 30, Bradley launched a 47-yard punt that was touched and lost by Chapin in a moment of indecision, with the Knights recovering at the 17. Six plays later, Anthony Bradley found White in the corner of the end zone for a 3-yard score gave Crestwood an insurmountable 14-point lead with 6:22 left.
The Eagles went to the air on their final two possessions, with little success. Starter Larob Gordon and backup Roger Pedroni combined to complete just two of eight passes for 16 yards during that stretch as the Knights' defense held for the final time with 3:05 left and were able to run out the clock from there after an 18-yard Maleeke Bradley first-down run.
The game initially shaped up as a battle between top wideouts Simon and Chapin's Xzavion Gordon, who caught his 62nd pass of the 2017 season on the final play of the first quarter to set a new single-season receiving record for the Eagles. Gordon closed with 131 yards and a score on eight receptions.
After making the playoffs for a second consecutive year, this win gives Nelson and the Knights a chance to play a week longer than last year, though North Myrtle Beach will provide a very stiff challenge. The Region VI champion Chiefs ran their record to 11-0 on Friday with a 59-36 win over Colleton County.
"It's big, it's big for the program," Nelson said of the significance of getting a playoff win. "These seniors who came in here with me have been through a lot and come a long way, and to get a playoff win in their senior year, that's outstanding. But we're not satisfied. We're just going to enjoy the moment tonight and get back to work on Sunday."